Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Sunset Rubdown and Moonface: Spencer Krug has fronted a lot of bands. He is the connective thread through all these groups and often the creative force propelling them, but each act is a distinct musical identity. Each creates compositions of unique aural hue. Moonface is a vehicle for Krug to freely explore unchartered musical territory without the limitations of fan expectation attached to his more well-known bands. This third Moonface album features Krug collaborating with Finnish progressive krautrock-influenced band Siinai. It is an equal melding of styles, as much Siinai with Spencer Krug as it is Moonface with Siinai. The result is a majestic mix of towering odes to the underside of love. It’s Krug’s most riveting album since Apologies to the Queen Mary or Shut Up I am Dreaming and one of the best albums of the year so far.
The lyrics on Heartbreaking Bravery have a high poetic tone. They are thematically cohesive as meditations on heartbreak. As Krug sings in the eponymous opening song, “heartbreaking bravery exists.” There is a Dylanesque quality in Krug’s ability to mix the personal with the mythical, as he sings, “When you see names of angels/ on the back of your eyelids/ that look like they were carved in a fit of violence/ by those you call exclusively yours.” Krug shares some of ’70s-era Dylan’s lyrical edge: cynicism, disillusionment, self-indulgence, disaffection, world-weariness, spitefulness. Yet Dylan trusses these emotions along the low side of the road while Krug catapults them into the glistening heavens. One of his most effective lyrical devices is repetition. On “Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips” he repeats the lines “we can embrace the blindness that comes with embracing the night” in an altered inflection that deftly teases a greater complexity of signification from the words. Repetition is common in pop songs, but it’s more striking in these tracks for its scarcity. The songs don’t have proper choruses, but meander in a conversational manner. So when Krug repeats “you are the killer” a minute deeper into a cut, it commands the listener’s attention. The album is brimming with excellent lyrics, Jungian in their primordial depth: “I’m not the phoenix yet/ Finally comes the moon.”
Musically Heartbreaking Bravery is composed of large sweeping movements. There is an ambient sediment underlying the melodic progressions. Sometimes the ambience is allowed to slowly evolve out of itself and sometimes it is quickly overridden by rapid rhythms or punctuated melodies. In all cases the effect is grandiose. The tone of the record is darkly majestic. It draws to mind the opulent noir-pop of The Cure’s Disintegration or Bright Eyes’ Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. This is the result of colliding styles. The music Siinai makes independently is deeply invested in an effort to reanimate the halcyon days of krautrock. What feels experimental is actually nostalgic, though provocative and compelling.
For his part Krug is an idiosyncratic entity in Canadian indie rock. Wolf Parade’s early stadium-leaning tendencies have given way to the frenetic eccentricities found on more recent Sunset Rubdown album Dragonslayer. Krug has never had a miss, but Heartbreaking Bravery constitutes an energizing shift for him. Sunset Rubdown records are jammed with as many ideas as can safely be packed into an album before it explodes. Working with Siinai slows everything down and allows Krug`s vocals to really take off. This is the best his singing has ever sounded. He`s always had a flair for the dramatic. Drawing out the notes on Heartbreaking Bravery allows his expressive grandeur to fully realize itself in an unprecedented way. The impact of the album uninterrupted from beginning to end is monumental.
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