Release Date: Oct 29, 2013
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Spencer Krug grew up playing classical piano, and in his years fronting indie bands he lost touch with this particular skill set. In an effort to get back to his roots, the former Wolf Parade co-frontman stripped his sound for his third album as Moonface. There are no effects, no over-dubs, no electronic elements whatsoever; there’s only piano and vocals.
With lyrics strewn with paeans to mystic creatures, erstwhile deities, and killer gorillas, Spencer Krug's songs with Wolf Parade were always far more fanciful than those of fellow member Dan Boeckner. Krug's equally confounding work with Sunset Rubdown allowed him to drift even further etherward, but his latest project, Moonface, has enabled him to follow his muse to the ends of the Earth and back. Well, at least as far as Finland, as Heartbreaking Bravery, his collaboration with Finnish post-rock outfit Siinai, edged closer to straightforward indie rock than he dared go before.
Julia with Blue Jeans On belongs to someone other than Spencer Krug. It is expressively his, of course, as it features him and only him, from the first lyric down to the very last piano note, and I’ll bet he chose the exact room he wanted to record it in. So, yeah it’s his, but it’s intuitively the work of someone else. That’s not a plot twist; it’s just the way this lonely, pining record is.
A Spencer Krug piano album-it had to happen sometime. In truth, the indie rock canon Krug's been mining over the past decade always seemed ill-fitting for his spectral croon. His is a voice that demands unfettered attention; one that craves a simple canvas from which to exhale mystical, metaphorical tropes. And somehow you knew the canvas was always going to be the piano.
The second long-player under the Moonface moniker for mercurial Canadian multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown), the Jagjaguar-issued Julia with Blue Jeans On eschews the brooding and reductionist, synth-heavy art-pop of previous outings for an even more austere approach, offering up an evocative and emotionally present set of stripped-down asymmetrical love songs that pairs Krug's distinctive voice with a lone baby grand piano. As a lyricist, Krug has always struck a nice balance between erudite and hallucinatory, and standout cuts like the wistful first single “Everyone Is Noah, Everyone Is the Ark,” the languid, appropriately titled “Dreamy Summer,” the epic “Barbarian,” and the ardent title track, the latter of which expertly sums up the giddy yet brutal slap of infatuation (“I see you there at the bottom of the stairs/Obliterating everything I’ve ever written down”), capture the complex emotions of devotion, both real and imagined, in a way that’s both willfully poetic and hardened by reality. A classically trained ivory tickler, Krug's compositional style is as esoteric as his prose, lending an unpredictable musicality to the proceedings that allows the listener to forget that they’re essentially listening in on a very intimate solo performance.
Over the years, one could get a sense of Canadian musician/lyricist Spencer Krug through his various musical endeavours, including Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake and his solo project, Moonface. However, no past release has managed to show a more intimate side of Krug than Julia With Blue Jeans On, a solo piano record. Despite the album's limited musical arsenal, Krug proves that he doesn't need layers of instrumentation and electronics to craft a series of songs that engage and convey emotion.
The simplest approach can be the bravest. For instance, making an album with only two ingredients: voice and piano. For it to work, the musicianship needs to be masterful, the songwriting elevated, the singing effortless, and the delivery earnest without veering into cheesy. On his third LP as Moonface, Spencer Krug, formerly of Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade, achieves this.
MoonfaceJulia With Blue Jeans On[Jajaguwar; 2013]By Ray Finlayson; November 19, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetStrewn across Spencer Krug’s discography is the mention of long distance relationships. On “Shut Up I Am Dreaming Of Places Where Lovers Have Wings” from his 2006 Sunset Rubdown album, he details a romance with someone who is “on the distant shore” who Krug wants to send “drawings of men with faithful hands [that] will make such good boyfriends” to. Skip forward half a decade (and through many other references) to "Fast Peter" from 2011's Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped, and Krug once again paints a picture of a romance held across a vast distance where the two people involved “only talk on their computers.
As 2010 crept into 2011, Spencer Krug's life changed. In that two year span, Wolf Parade—one of the most celebrated indie rock bands of the 2000s—announced their indefinite hiatus. Around that same time, Krug dissolved his much-loved Sunset Rubdown, forged a new solo project called Moonface, saw the end of a particularly intense romance, and left Canada for Finland.
In the past three years, Spencer Krug has walked away from two critically acclaimed bands, when anyone else would be pushing for the stadium-rock support slot that takes them into the premier league; instead, Krug moved from Canada to Finland in pursuit of his muse, as if Iceland (now synonymous with avant-garde artists in retreat) had become too popular and not hermetic enough to hear those whispers of divine language that Keats strained after, that slipped through Coleridge’s fingers as the dream dissolved. It’s easy to see how a perfectionist might feel that Wolf Parade were treading water on their bigger-but-not-better Expo 86, but Sunset Rubdown (originally an outlet for his experimental side) seemed boundlessly creative, and the perfect updating of Seventies glam rock at its artiest. You really had to want to see that Dragonslayer (still one of the decade’s finest IMHO) might have represented a full-stop, since it had refined older songs and lyrical motifs past the point of imrovement.
It’s a typical story. Boy meets girl, falls in love and it all goes wrong. His life and bands fall apart and eventually all that is left is a piano, regret, and reflection. In Finland. With Wolf Parade on “indefinite hiatus” and Sunset Rubdown apparently on the officially pronounced dead list ….
Spencer Krug lives in Helsinki now. Of course he does. He hasn’t always; he used to live in Montreal. He used to tour a lot with his buddy Dan Boeckner, and they made some powerful songs together as Wolf Parade. Krug’s other band, Sunset Rubdown, reached some equally impressive heights, but for ….
“Set fire to my music,” Spencer Krug sings on Julia With Blue Jeans On, “It wasn’t much good anyway.” If he’s serious, that explains a lot. Moonface, a moniker Krug attributes to his solo work, repeatedly redefines itself to such an extent that you’d think the songwriter were trying to make you forget his last effort. Not that he should.
Following last year's superb, seismic collaborative album, With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery, recorded with Finnish krautrockers Siinai, Spencer Krug, man of many guises - he’s formerly a member of Canadian indie big-hitters Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake, and now recording solo as Moonface - has jettisoned that album’s grandiose, motorik sonics, opting instead for a collection of songs arranged for just voice and piano. It's perhaps not such a surprising card to play, given that Krug's been clear from the start that Moonface would be a constantly-changing proposition, and this latest, more classically singer-songwriterly direction proves Krug to be a master songsmith, unfurling lyrical, captivating sketches that are entirely mesmeric. It could so easily have fallen the other way - just shy of 50 minutes' worth of nothing but a man and his piano has the potential to be bracingly dull - but Krug is both a fine musician and a compelling storyteller.
Spencer Krug is a man with many faces; widely revered as a member of cult darlings including Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown and now Moonface – a solo project which is beginning to stake an increasingly valid claim for being among the Canadian auteur’s best work. Moonface has already been through a few stylistic shifts, in keeping with Krug’s fervent imagination and matching work ethic. His introductory EP’s experimented with crafting quirky little songs from limited resources, notably his Marimba and Shit Drums EP which set a fairly obvious lo-fi precedent.
opinion byJESSE NEE-VOGELMAN There exists an alternate universe not so different from ours in which Spencer Krug spends his days on a street soapbox believing he’s Jesus. Not in the fun, ridiculous, egocentric manner of Kanye, but the sad, painful, egocentric manner of a man suffering to bring us art. Or, maybe Krug’s already there; titling the second track “Everyone is Noah, Everyone is the Ark” puts the gaze on God, and “I’m a lamb! I’m a lamb! I’m a lamb!” really leaves nothing to the imagination.