Spencer Krug was one-half of the songwriting force for Wolf Parade, a cosmic indie rock band who pulled 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' out of the bag. He played synth and keys back then, and his solo project as Moonface has been an experiment in making pop music with electronics and random one-off instruments. Last year, he released 'Julia With Blue Jeans On', a collection of maudlin compositions for piano and nothing else. 'City Wrecker' is that record's follow-up EP, and based on "City Wrecker", also has its fair share of piano. It documents the time Krug spent moving out of Finland.
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Spencer Krug has been squatting over different instruments throughout his career: he's shot arrows from synths, slain dragons on guitar, slunk his cape back as he composes on the organ, and now, he's handcuffed to a grand piano in the middle of a dungeon. My point being: whatever he's using, dude is cosmic. Krug has never quite lived on the same planet as us. There was a time when this was more obvious; as one half of the songwriting force that was Wolf Parade, Krug seemed diametrically opposed to his buttoned up bandmate Dan Boeckner, whose lyrics were about getting through the workday, being drunk and loving his girlfriend. While Boeckner was doing all that real life shit, Krug was writing fairytales, cooking up the next metaphor to make literal, and thinking of the most elaborate way to dress up. His songs were romantic, melodramatic and never left without a climax or sudden shake up in the time signature department. You could relate to Boeckner, when listening to Wolf Parade -- he'd just gotten home from a hard day -- but it was Krug, the weird, dreaming pixie, you were moved by.
Krug's recent work as Moonface has stayed in the realm of fantasy -- he's spent the last few years fashioning vague concept albums around random instruments of choice, and making proggy krautrock with Siinai. The project's formally experimental nature, though, has distanced the listener, and removed some of the pseudo-dramatic fun that can be had listening to Krug's songwriting. On last year's otherwise romantic 'Julia With Blue Jeans On', he sounded stoical, self-important and reclusive, hauled up in his living room playing grand piano and spouting lyrics that were either ridiculously verbose ("they were discussing the existence of an all-seeing deity") or comical when set against his greyscale compositions (a personal favourite: "sat out on the balcony / doing blow, and playing chess with myself"). Despite its grand ambitions, 'Julia With Blue Jeans On' sounded like adult contemporary done by a boring demon.
While new EP 'City Wrecker' takes the same form as 'Julia' -- aside from a couple of flourishes on synth, it's nothing more than the same grandstanding piano work -- it somehow brings back the emotive qualities that once make Krug such a compelling songwriter. It might be because it brings back the urgency Krug intoned on his earliest works: opener "The Fog" rushes through its riffs, with Krug tripping over his quick-fire words as if they actually matter to him. "City Wrecker" is a ballad made around simple, scaled back lyrics that deserve the climax they get -- the articulation is stronger, and more persuasive, than anything on 'Julia'. It's in the two epics that close out the EP, though, where 'City Wrecker' gets its real power: "Helsinki Winter 2013" traverses a small arsenal of motifs in its eight minutes, starting as a spectral, barely performed piece with simple chords before Krug ploughs through about five different suites which he kisses off with a truly neo-classical outro. "Daughter of a Dove" takes on a similar tack, Krug switching up his notation on the regular while keeping an ascending climax in his line of sight. Krug claimed 'City Wrecker' was about his own destructive qualities, and these climaxes never feel composed as much as they do erupted: it feels like they come inevitably, whether Krug wants them or not.
It's amazing how potent 'City Wrecker' can be when it's been taken from the same drab psyche that motivated 'Julia With Blue Jeans On' -- while that felt like the work of a solipsistic, uncompromising artist who barely realised he had an audience, these songs are heart-on-sleeve, Krug pining that you'll be as melodramatic as he is. 'City Wrecker' is Krug bringing us back some of his ridiculous magic: whether or not he's being realistic, his music will leave a mark.
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