Thursday, April 19, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Moonface - With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery

by Mark Gillis

Full disclosure before I start this review: I’m a complete Spencer Krug fanboy. I’ll try to do this review as objectively as possible, but that man’s music is just too awesome. Of course, Spencer Krug is the musical mind who has been part of projects like Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, Fifths Of Seven, Frog Eyes and now Moonface. Just the sheer volume of his musical output is impressive, but the variety of his output shows just how versatile of a musician Spencer is. Wolf Parade seemed to be his main rock outlet and Sunset Rubdown seemed to be more of a pop outlet; these facts are easier to pin down than trying to figure out exactly what Moonface is.

What Moonface seems to be to Spencer Krug is an excuse to do whatever he damn well pleases. His two prior releases under the Moonface name were titled Marimba And Shit-Drums and Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped; musically these are more descriptive and accurate than most album titles that you’ll find. These were two very different sounding releases; the only thing that really tied them together well was Spencer’s singing. Heartbreaking Bravery is yet again totally different than anything else that has come out of the Moonface project before. Spencer teamed up with Finnish Krautrockers Siinai for this album. He met the band while touring with them during a European Wolf Parade tour. I guess that Spencer was impressed with Siinai’s work because he did contact them to collaborate on this album.

I think as a whole, this album is a grower more than a shower. It’s definitely not for anybody who is impatient. The linear song structures and monotonous drums synonymous with Krautrock are littered throughout the entirety of this album. The songs build, twist and turn, but they do it rather deliberately. If you come into this album expecting the huge flashes of eccentricity that Spencer has shown in the past, you aren’t going to find them here. Even Spencer’s voice is toned down considerably. It doesn’t have the normal urgency that fans are probably used to hearing from him. Instead, his voice goes along with the pace of the music; it’s more calm, slower, and more patient than I’ve ever heard Spencer. Of course this doesn’t mean that Heartbreaking Bravery is a bad listen; it’s quite the opposite. This more brooding side of Spencer is still extremely interesting, I think you just need to allow yourself to be completely surrounded by the music and just get into its groove.

As I mentioned before, past Moonface releases have had very musically descriptive titles. Heartbreaking Bravery is by no means descriptive musically, but lyrically this title does a more than apt job of describing what the listener is in for. I could point out any number of phrases that refer to love and heartbreak, but I’ll just point out one spoken word verse at the end of the track “Headed For The Door.”

Dear Sarah, I heard that you’ve turned into a goth, and I think that’s great, if that’s what makes you happy. I have an old pair of black boots with silver buckles that I don’t wear anymore, and you can have them if you want them. Also, I wanted to ask: What, if anything, is fluttering in your heart? I wanted to ask if it has to be a black crow or a vampire bat... or if maybe instead it could be a kite that has broken loose from the string that you were holding—or the string that we were holding—sometime when we were teenagers, or maybe in our early twenties? Could it be a kite which is now rolling over and over on itself in the sky like an unborn baby, and slowly shrinking into a dot, and then a spec of black, and then something we’re not even sure we’re watching, but then, for sure, absolutely nothing at all? Get back to me about this when you have a chance. I hope you’re doing well.

This seems like a letter to an old lover asking them what they’ve been up to, and kind of wanting to reconnect with them. Being able to actually understand what Spencer means with his lyrics is a bit of a revelation. Normally, anything that Spencer sings is incredibly cryptic and almost impossible to decipher. The simple fact the Spencer is crafting songs about such a relatable topics like love and heartbreak make this album easier to delve into than a lot of Spencer’s past work.

This is another extremely solid release from an extremely talented and ever-evolving musician. To me, part of Spencer’s appeal is the musical ADD that he seems to have. He’s always craving something new and always thinks of something different. Whether or not it works out well (I believe most times that it does), at least he’s trying something new, so I expect something else radically different from the next Moonface release.

Strong 8

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