Sunday, July 24, 2011

My 4 Favorite Spencer Krug Albums

Spencer Krug has so much musical output in so many different bands that he makes Jack White look lazy. Along side the obvious material from Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown—Krug’s discography contains several albums as a member Frog Eyes, a couple as part of the three-head beast that is Swan Lake, and even as outing in a instrumental band. It all equates to a massive amount of music from this prolific artist.

His latest incarnation is that of Moonface, a new solo project. This new solo album Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped will be released on August 2nd via Jagjaguwar. His tour as Moonface hits Austin this Tuesday (07.26.11) at Emo’s.

In anticipation, I look back at my four favorite albums from the many faces of Krug. Why three? Well, five is too many and three is too few. Here they are… countdown:

4. Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslyer (2009)
This LP begins and ends quietly. Yet in between, the mood ranges from epic, to monstrously epic, to epically monstrous. In line with the album’s title, the music here sounds like that which would play as the knights of Camelot ride into battle. “Black Swan” and “”You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)” stand in Krug’s catalog as some of the biggest tunes he has crafted. But what makes Dragonslyer really stand out is the supporting cast. Krug’s right hand "Jane-of-all-trades" Camilla Wynne Ingr steps up her duties and becomes a significant back up vocalist, adding a welcome contrast to his maddening yelps. It's evident here that Krug may have found a circle of partners more suited to his unique song writing structures than his “primary” band Wolfe Parade. After Dragonslayer I had come to the conclusion that I would rather see Krug retire his partnership with Dan Boeckner and focus his main attention on this band. One Wolfe Parade album later (Expo 86) and it looks like that may be the case.

3. Fifths of Seven - Spry from Bitter Anise Folds (2005)
Probably the least recognizable project and album from Spencer Krug is an entry into the neo-classical/chamber music genre. With Krug primarily on keys (and putting in some work on the accordion), this band is rounded out by Beckie Foon (cello) and Rachel Levine (mandolin). Together they craft a somber and beautiful piece of music. Krug’s talent for constructing songs with a lot of movement is clearly evident when stripped down to an instrumental project. The album’s undeniable highlight is “Out From Behind The Ridged Bellows,” where the accordion creates a melancholy tone as the mandolin constantly builds with the song's progression. As of right now Spry from Bitter Anise Folds is the only offering from Fifths of Seven, which kind of gives me the sad face. This was a remarkable showing for the three musicians. Hopefully Krug can carve out some time from his ever busy rotation of bands to circle back around with Foon and Levine. I would love to see them collaborate again.

2. Wolfe Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)
The creative team of Krug and Dan Boeckner never meshed better than it did on their first full-length album together. It’s unforgettable how Apologies to the Queen Mary opened with Krug’s declaration of “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son" over a snarling drum beat that lead directly into Boeckner rocking through “Modern World.” The two never sounded better then when they trade vocals back and forth on “We Built Another World." The double shot of Krug penned tunes “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts” and “I’ll Believe In Anything” showcased his teetering vocal style. Not to be outshined, Boeckoner shows his strength as a frontman on “It’s a Curse.” The later Wolfe Parade releases seemed to suffer from Krug and Boeckner holding back their best material for their then side projects (Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs, respectively), but on here they sounded like two gunslingers trying to one up each other.  The result is a now classic album.

1. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I am Dreaming (2006)

“Shut up, I am dreaming of places where lover’s have wings,” Krug croons on the closing track of the same name. It’s a statement that perfectly sums up his schizophrenic style of music. It’s polarizing, it’s oddly poetic, and when taken literally makes absolutely no sense at all. While the third album to be released under the Sunset Rubdown name, it’s the first that features Sunset Rubdown fleshed out as a full band. The effect gives Krug more noise to frolic within. The album sounds like a romp in a far, far away world like Oz or Wonderland. Incidentally, Johnny Depp stated last year that he pulled his inspiration to play Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter from Sunset Rubdown. If any piece of music personified moments of insanity it is Shut Up I am Dreaming. On “The Empty Threats of a Little Lord,” Krug preaches “the podiums are high as the gallows are low” and of being “not that kind of whore.” Elsewhere he ponders the end of the world on the track “The Men are Called Horsemen There,” by decreeing “if I was a horse I would throw up the reigns if I was you.” Every step of the way Spencer Krug sounds like a court jester spewing illogical idioms, and every step of the way it’s compelling. Whether a quiet ballad or a rumpus circus melody, He stays in control in crafting a grandiose offering.  I love this album.

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