It’s not often you find your music appreciating self staring up at the ceiling, listening to Wolf Parade’s now seemingly ancient 2005 breakthrough, Apologies to the Queen Mary, wondering “Hmm… I wonder what Spencer Krug is working on right now. He needs to make some music again.” That’s because the guy’s prolificacy is nearly unparalleled. He is affiliated with so many albums each year that it’s rather difficult to keep track of them all. I find myself wondering if he even knows what is supposed to distinguish each project’s sound anymore. Yet somehow, unlike his influential forefathers (I’m looking at you Mr. Pollard), he manages to restrict his overhaul output to a somewhat digestible level. For those who follow Krug and his numerous projects (Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes, etc), there always seems to be room for more of him in our lives. The Canadian rarely falters, more often than not delivering a profound listening experience with each release. Luckily, Dragonslayer, Sunset Rubdown’s fourth LP, is no exception. In fact, it may be the strongest Krug-related record since Wolf Parade’s glorious debut.
“Confetti floats away like dead leaves in the wagon’s wake/there were parties here in my honor/till you sent me away,” Krug croaks from the onset of “Silver Moons”, the album’s opener. Thus begins an album in the wake of the party, looking back on it all with nostalgic remorse. “Maybe these days are over, over now,” he postulates. It’s not easy to make confetti sound dismal, yet Spencer and his band have accomplished the feat. Wayne Coyne would tear up. Atop minor piano keys and eerie atmospherics, Krug sings his cryptic poetry, passionately begging for someone to decode it.
It’s a task, but not such a daunting one. There’s enough here to draw conclusions as to the subject matter. Take “Idiot Heart”, the album’s second track, which seems to view a failed relationship through the backwards actions of a horror film victim. Palm muted, distorted strums enter, before Krug moans, “Stay away from open windows/put the telephone down/Can you run as fast as this house will fall/when the alarm bell sounds?/ Now I was never much of a dancer/but I know enough to know you gotta move/your idiot body around.” Glockenspiel and pulsing drums join forces with squealing guitar licks to accompany Krug’s distinct howl. “You ignore your heart!,” yells Krug in a sort of paradoxical half-assed passion, that perfectly expresses his mood; difficult to describe but easy to understand. Krug believes that whoever he is addressing ignored their love for him. “I hope that you die/in a decent pair of shoes/you’ve got a lot of long walking to do,” he cries spitefully, accompanied by the ghostly vocals of Camilla Wynne Ingr. It’s easy to see that Krug is longing for something and someone, and by listening in, we witness him in the process of getting over it.
From there on out, elegant synth, mathy guitar licks, precise drumming, and heavy grooves carry an album seeping with recurring metaphors of nostalgia, loss, and unrequited love. But you won’t find yourself rolling your eyes at the seemingly cliché themes, because unless you listen close enough, you may not even realize they are there. Krug manages to craft his own versions of lovesick sing-alongs by securely wrapping his lackadaisically discouraged lyrics in danceable beats, coarse noises, and maximum shreddage.
But, this is certainly not without help from the rest of the ever-so-technical band that constitutes the Sunset Rubdown moniker. Krug had previously mentioned that this album aims to be a more band inclined effort, and it is certainly evident here. These are focused songs, with notably more direction than previous Sunset Rubdown efforts. Perhaps much of this can be attributed to the addition of drummer, Mark Nicol, who pins down some pretty vibrant beats. Breakdowns and movements are aplenty, as hyper speed fret noodling plays against constantly changing rhythms (the album makes use of both bongos and reggaeton beats to name a few) and bouncy keys. Furthermore, interactions between Krug’s crackly warble and Camilla Wynne Ingr’s whispers create more of a vocal dynamic. These songs grow and explode before they conclude, and they rarely wonder about.
As Krug accurately states in the climactic “Nightingale/December Song”, the album’s true highlight, “We all burn in different ways.” There is nothing but truth here. As far as burning goes, some cry alone in the dark, some brush off failed relationships and get on with their lives, and Spencer Krug turns whatever it is that’s “burning” him into songwriting gold. “I see us all as lonely fires/that have burned alive as long as we remember/But like all fires and all sunsets/we all burn in different ways/you are a fast explosion/and I am the embers/And though your flames are quick and mean/they will not last the year.” He’s been hurt, but the pain will pass. Whoever burnt Krug this badly did a number, but they also inspired some killer tunes. Thank you?
Krug wraps up the set up by tying everything back together on the 10 minute epic “Dragon’s Layer”, with “confetti in his eyes.” As drums crash and burn, he mockingly applauds himself repeatedly, “You are the champion!” As listeners to Dragonslayer, we are spectators in Krug’s battle with himself and his own reservations. But as the album concludes, Krug appears to overcome them all, in search of “a bigger kind of kill.” The dragon has burnt him, but he is the Dragonslayer, and he will prevail. After all the orchestrated chaos within the album’s depths, an upbeat groove leads us out, and caps off one of the finer Krug penned efforts to date. Keep ‘em coming, sir.