Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

It’s really not Wolf Parade’s fault. Five years ago, when the Canadian rock fetish was just getting sexy and every new act seemed to be named after some kind of Canis lupus, Apologies to the Queen Mary rocked our cores before lighting our own hearts on fire. With a debut album that stellar and a wave of hype washing across the continent, there really was nowhere else to go but down.

While 2008’s At Mount Zoomer may have been more of a commercial success, it suffered the sophomore slump status simply by not being as exceptional as Apologies. It comes as no surprise, then, that songwriters Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner have spent the past few years doing their best work with side projects Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs, respectively.

Expo 86 finds the guys stuck in the same style but lacking the stripped down vulnerability and frantic feeling that marked their debut. Krug’s compositions have abandoned the jangly, Modest Mouse rawness that made tracks like ‘Grounds for Divorce’ and ‘I’ll Believe in Anything’ so affecting, instead spending the majority of his tracks wadding through excess. His affection for prog rock heaviness, sadly, weighs down the otherwise sparkling melodies of ‘Cloud Shadow on the Mountain’ and What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)’. Minimalism, this ain’t.

The best parts of Expo 86 owe more to Boeckner, who delivers the album’s standout tracks: the synth-driven dance number ‘Ghost Pressure’ and ‘Yulia’, the record’s poppiest and most catchy cut. While Krug’s Sunset Rubdown got all the attention and accolades last year with Dragonslayer, Boeckner more than pulls his weight here.

Wolf Parade – Ghost Pressure
Wolf Parade – Yulia

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— , July 14, 2010    2 Comments

Photograph by Annabel Mehran

The year 2009 will be remembered for many things, including the divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin, Tiger Woods’ infidelity, and of course, the introduction of Keyboard Cat. But aside from those momentous events, some decent music was released. As the year draws to a close, we here at Ca Va Cool continue our list-making ways to bring you our favourite albums of 2009. Through an intense, scientific process, we have distilled the vast amount of quality releases into an essential brew of twenty such albums. Old favourites share space with relative newcomers in the first half of our list.

Sunset Rubdown

20. Sunset RubdownDragonslayer (Jagjaguwar)

Spencer Krug has solidified his position as wizard of the indie world with the release of Dragonslayer. Conjuring up mythical beasts and inspiring a belief in whimsical folklore, all while contorting vocals entangled with punchy keyboards. Dragonslayer is Sunset Rubdown’s white rabbit in the top hat. The witty experimentation paired with outstanding hooks forms an album that is both accessible and multifarious. Dragonslayer compiles an unparalleled consistency as the eight tracks serve as standalone sensations while weaving an outlandish fairytale. The record has the capacity to immerse listeners and encourage exploration. Sunset Rubdown uncovers a new adventure with each thumping refrain of ‘Idiot Heart’ or the possessed chanting of ‘You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)’. The quintet’s unpolished finish on the album prides itself on the kinks in their armour and much like a good fairytale, each scrape, bruise, and bump has its own merit when fighting dragons. — Jan Kucic-Riker

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— , December 21, 2009    Comments Off on Best Albums of 2009, Pt. 1

Sunset Rubdown

Spencer Krug’s latest mythical creation Dragonslayer continues Sunset Rubdown’s fabled journey involving tales of Icarus, sorcerers, butterfly wings, and of course – dragons. The busy Krug was involved in Swan Lake’s latest release Enemy Mine earlier this year and much like a schoolchild with a wandering imagination found an outlet in his now burgeoning side-project to Wolf Parade. Creating a follow-up to Random Spirit Lover and Shut Up I Am Dreaming is no easy task. You could argue that it would require the imaginative child to mature into a delirious institutionalized madman to produce eccentricities of the same flavour. Scheduled for release June 23 on Jagjaguwar, Sunset Rubdown’s Dragonslayer is nothing short of absolute lunacy employing fanatical themes and disjoint storytelling to an utmost pinnacle.

The album begins with the introspective track ‘Silver Moons’ as Spencer Krug and Camilla Wynne Ingr share vocals singing, “I believe in growing old with grace, I believe she only loved my face, I believe I acted like a child, making faces at acquired tastes.” The contemplative musings serve as an interlude to the infectious anthem ‘Idiot Heart’ using heavy garage rock riffs comparable to the psychedelic melodies of the Black Keys. With marimba chiming over bass and drums, Krug alludes to Icarus in his attempt to conquer the skies. Using embellished themes and satirising fairytale citations Sunset Rubdown manages to find a way with words that is neither inaccessible nor monotonous, but memorable in its eloquence.

Dragonslayer ushers in Mark Nicol the group’s new bassist and part-time drummer. Sunset Rubdown’s latest album is set apart from their previous releases by retaining a less developed studio sound and tuning the songs with a get-up-and-go live mentality. Listening to Spencer shriek out the words to ‘Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!’ with Camilla’s graceful keyboard tiptoeing in the background the song solicits outlandish uninhibited dancing. Sunset Rubdown is at their loudest on ‘Black Swan’ between rumours of mascara spread throughout a kingdom of hearts and wailing guitars heralding the fall of palisades.

Sunset Rubdown – You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)
Sunset Rubdown – Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!

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— , May 28, 2009    3 Comments