Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gut Feeling: Moonface - Julia With Blue Jeans On

Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On
Jagjaguar, 2013
The moment where I became a Spencer Krug superfan can be isolated to a cluster of seven notes: The first notes that open Sunset Rubdown’s 2007 album Random Spirit Lover. The little guitar riff on the opening track—“The Mending of the Gown”—incites a bit of a Proustian nostalgia every time I hear it. I typically think of 2007 as my favorite year for music (at least in terms of years I got to live through while actively being a music lover). At the top of that year’s list was Random Spirit Lover. Not because it was the most masterfully crafted album or the one that broke the most new ground, but because it was the album that my gut wanted to hear every day for the back half of that year. It is a sloppy record, but one full of so much raw energy and spark that I found myself inspired every time I threw it in the CD player. I loved the wall-to-wall arrangements that always made the songs feel overstuffed but in a good way. There was so much going on, and Krug’s songwriting was peaking at such a high level it was an album I spent hours upon hours dissecting.

It always depresses me a little to refer to Krug as “the guy from Wolf Parade” whenever I’m trying to push a Sunset Rubdown or Moonface record on someone (“No, the other guy. The guy who sings ‘I Believe in Anything.’ No, there are two singers in that band…oh nevermind, just listen to this!”). Post Apologies to the Queen Mary, Krug seems to save his best tracks for his myriad side projects. “All Fires” from the first Swan Lake album is one of the most pretty sad songs I can recall, and I’ve always been under the impression that his affiliation with Dan Bejar and Carey Mercer led to a sort of songwriting arms race amongst the three considering that they always seem to be upping their game album after album. Though the last Moonface record—Heartbreaking Bravery, a collaboration with Finnish rockers Siinai—was fantastic, it didn’t feel like a triumph. It was loose, and the writing was great, but Krug’s uncanny knack for compiling great capital A Albums is one of his greatest skills. With Sunset Rubdown apparently on hiatus, Krug has taken the opportunity to unleash an unanswered boldness on his new record as Moonface. Julia With Blue Jeans On is not only the best Moonface record to date, but an honest to god triumph.

The songwriting has to be good when you’re constructing an album with nothing but piano and vocals. There are no guitars, no distortion, no walloping drums to cast any ambiguity on the lyrics. On Julia, Krug’s words fill the room wall to wall. He’s no virtuoso on the piano, but his expressive playing serves a perfect supporting role to these seemingly deeply personal songs that are amongst the most compelling he has written despite their spare setting. It is an album to be felt. Here, Krug offers up a pair of love songs that eclipse his much beloved “I’ll Believe in Anything” in sentiment. “November 2011” and the title track utilize Krug’s dark sweetness to wrap themselves around your heart like a python and squeeze. Where Krug typically shrouds his eloquently penned words in mystery and crypticism, the lyric sheet for Julia With Blue Jeans On is as straightforward and intimate as Krug has ever been.

Now I’d say the only word worth singing is a name
And I’d say the only name worth singing is not God
It’s you, Julia, as beautiful and simple as the sun
Julia with Blue Jeans on

His piano ranges from meandering to percussive and eviscerating. The songs are elegant and exhausting, occasionally breathtaking, and almost always wholly compelling and gorgeously penned. It seems criminal that Spencer Krug isn’t better known outside of Wolf Parade, but if that group’s role in the spotlight can help lead intrepid fans down the rabbit hole of Krug’s endlessly fascinating discography.

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