Sunset Rubdown – Random Spirit Lover
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
This was my favorite record of 2007, and though it wasn't released until October of that year, the leaked copy never left the CD player in my car for months. It was my summer jam. There were some pretty heavy contenders that year, too. And though it may not be as timeless as The National's Boxer (which came in at number two that year), it will always remind me of 2007. It's not dated, but overall it is the record I most associate with 2007, particularly the end of 2007 which was a pretty miserable time. This got me through it, driving around town listening to it over and over again. Opening track “The Mending of the Gown” was also my #1 song of the year, and while I feel Sunset Rubdown can only go up, I think that's going to be their all time best song. This record is a lot weirder and more adventurous than their proper debut Shut Up I Am Dreaming. That's a fantastic record, but Spencer Krug hadn't yet completely separated himself from Wolf Parade. Here, he's composed his finest record to date under any moniker, one of the more cohesive records in the last ten years sadly broken up over two discs. I love the seamlessness of the transitions on the CD, and hate that they get fucked with on the LP. But alas, I had to own it. I was obsessed with this record. I've been revisiting it since falling in love with their latest, Dragonslayer, which might be just as good, or almost just as good. It took a lot longer to grow on me though, opposed to Random Spirit Lover which I loved from that opening guitar riff on “The Mending of the Gown.” Grated, certain songs took their time to grow on me (“Magic vs Midas,” “Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot!”), but there are four absolutely A+ jams here which is more than most records have. Maybe that's how records should be graded, like this is school. If that were so, this record would get straight As. Every song works to aid the others, nothing seems out of place. Even returning to it with fresh ears outside of my obsessiveness, it still sounds like that. And the way the MONSTER jams are spread out is so tactful. It's almost an every other song sort of thing, and when it's not the preceding song works to set up the grandeur of what comes next. For instance, that transition from “For the Pier( and Dead Shimmering” to that fucking killer drum beat at the beginning of “The Taming of the Hands That Came Back to Life” gets me every time. Gets me in the mood to rock out, that is. “Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days” is still insanely good. “I'm the one that sat at your capture/ And let the snow fall on this whispering rapture/ And you're the one who's kissing your captor's hands.” It makes sense that Krug is in a band with Dan Bejar and Carey Mercer (see: Swan Lake, who are coming up two records from now). They are probably the best three Canadian songwriters (sorry, Bryan Adams) that aren't Leonard Cohen or Neil Young, and definitely the best of right now. They all have a wonderful weirdness to them. Mercer tends to be the weirdest and Krug tends to be the one most rooted in reality, whereas Bejar is somewhere in the middle. Krug's accessibility might not even come from his lyrics, and though he wrote one of the greatest love songs of the 00s (Wolf Parade's “I”ll Believe in Anything”), here he's really weird. Really really weird. Songs of courtesans and stallions, actors and child heart losers. I guess a big reason for my loving this record is its synesthetic quality. Every time I hear it I imagine it as grand theatre. I have a music video for “The Mending of the Gown” because the song is so descriptive, but it's all like some Japanese Kabuki play and at the end the curtain falls on everyone. Anyway, though I wasn't yet a Krug disciple, when the album's title was announced I knew I would love it. A gut feeling. A record called Random Spirit Lover has to be good, and it was even better than I expected. The guitars are motherfucking perfect, the piano lines are the kind that make me bang on the dashboard when I'm driving while listening, and the moments when they slow it down a bit, like “Winged/Wicked Things” just bring the goddamned house down. Though Krug seems to be under the impression that this record was too labored over according to interviews about the sound of Dragonslayer, which was recorded live and away from the studio (and the trickery that comes with it), I still think it's a masterpiece. Spencer Krug's masterpiece, and it's one of those records that's so good I'm actively looking forward to him topping it.
You really can't fuck with this: