Audible Musings

Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer
June 29, 2009, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sunset Rubdown is the supergroup comprised of, most visibly, Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade, who authored the band’s debut album, Snake’s Got A Leg circa july ’05. Fast forward a few years and the band has expanded to include Camilla Wynn Ingr of Pony Up!, Jordan Robson-Cramer of XY Lover, and Michael Doerksen. This work, Dragonslayer, as well as the 2006 release, Shut Up I Am Dreaming, is a product of this latter combination.

So now that you have an idea about the band’s bio, I’ll highly endorse the album. I think it’s some of the finest work this year, and that’s high praise considering the slew of new albums that have been released. Although this album only has eight tracks, it clocks in at just under 50 minutes courtesy of the ten minute “Dragons Lair” that concludes the album on an epic note. As per usual, the album is centered around the keys and synth, but it feels as though with this album, the guitar takes a somewhat more leading role in pushing melodic ideas forward, be it with a crunchy backing riff or a buttery upper register controlled improvisation. Although the lyrics don’t really make sense (they never really have, to be honest), there are more lucid moments within the sprawling lyrical jumble that enable the listener to connect with this album on a deeper level than past efforts. Similarly, as this album’s melodies seem to flow smoothly and create plenty of tension and release, this album is definitely more instantly listenable than previous work from both Wolf Parade as well as Sunset Rubdown. As straightforward as the music can sound at points, it is – to my ear – the simplistic use of subtle complexities interspersed with austere melodies is what makes the album so easily listenable and instantly unique.

The opening tune, “Silver Moons,” sets a very stately tone for the album as Krug wails about moving on and growing old with a timbre that seems to suggest fear, “I believe in growing old with grace, … You are a fallen tree, He is a fallen tree, How old are you no how old are you?” As the song breaks down to piano and Krug’s notorious voice, you can’t help but be touched by his sincerity and the unique voice he posesses. Indeed, the implicit mourning continues as the guitar strikes a strident overtone that wails in its own right over the progression reaches its peak and we hear something relatively new: a vocal duet! Quite a moving piece that is immediatly contrasted by the more uptempo – and more typical of Krug’s past work, I might add – “Idiot Heart.” Again, pounding floor toms and an uptempo piano riff drive the tune until the crunchy guitar melts into the mix with a grace that almost makes you wish Wolf Parade could find a way to be that cool sounding, but you are then reminded that they have a sound of their own and that this is a way for Krug to open himself up to new sounds. The instrumentation in this song is quite unique as well, as a glokenspeil takes the lead, and later, something resembling a xylophone comes to the forefront. “Nightingale/December Song” finds Sunset Rubdown at its most creative, as a synth bass loop flows amidst hand drums and a twangy, almost southwestern sounding guitar. As Krug’s voice weaves between the multi-cultural elements that create a whirlwind of earthly sounds and noise, we hear a church organ resembling something out of Arcade Fire meander its way into the forefront as the almost tribal now background intro becomes the canvas upon which Krug and the rest of the band creates its epic tale of burning emotion and lost love. The band then leads us gently by the hand into a musical odyssey of adventure, mysticism, and sheer emotion that swells and swells until it leaves you where you started with a chord that slowly fades into the reverberating sunset.

In all, this album is fantastic from start to finish. With simple, catchy melodies that are complimented perfectly by instrumentation that is unique, yet ideal for the purpose at hand. And the lyrics remain mystical, but – for the first time – are almost accessible after a listen or two. Well done.

Dragonslayer – Sunset Rubdown


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