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"Heartbreaking Bravery"

Moonface with Siinai – Heartbreaking Bravery
12 April 2012, 08:57 Written by Thomas Hannan

Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake and now Moonface; Spencer Krug is doing a great job of being Canadian indie’s answer to whatever question it is that Damon Albarn is asking. What’s curious about the full-length debut of this latest project, however is that in all honesty,there’s nothing about it that couldn’t feature on, say, a Swan Lake or Sunset Rubdown record. The names of his projects now, more than ever, seem pretty interchangeable.

Funny though, because the sound of the preceding Moonface EP – the droning, meandering keys of Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped – seemed to be the most singular thing Krug had put his name to since he gently side-stepped away from the lo-fi aesthetic of Sunset Rubdown’s masterpiece Shut Up I Am Dreaming. And though Organ Music… was a peculiar little thing that managed to sound at once off the cuff and strangely long winded, both its hits and its misses suggested that whatever Moonface was going to become, it was going to have its own thing going on.

And in fairness, it still does – it’s just not the same thing that it was, and thus it joins the ranks of other Krug projects which become vehicles for basically whatever he wants to sound like on that day. It’s not quite at the standard of the aforementioned Shut Up…, Wolf Parade’s rightly lauded debut, or Swan Lake’s vastly underrated Enemy Mine, but this collaboration with Helsinki instrumental progsters Siinai – who add a propulsive Krautrock flesh to Krug’s stark, bony keyboard melodies and vocals – continues a run of fine records from a man who hasn’t ever really made a bad one, no matter what band he was in. Note – Siinai’s contribution to this LP cannot be underestimated.

It’s a moody album, focusing on two moods in particular; the first a punchdrunk exploration of love’s more forlorn moments using the medium of reverb (as epitomised on the tear-jerking title track, to quite terrifying effect on ‘Faraway Lightning’ and in its most successful, epic form on ‘Headed For The Door’), the second a much more enlivened state in which Krug experiments with what it would sound like to play LCD Soundsystem records on a transistor radio you’d just thrown in to a bath. The latter are Heartbreaking Bravery’s standout contributions to Krug’s vast canon; in particular, ‘Shitty City’’s throbbing synths, the sparkling guitar loops of ‘Quickfire, I Tried’ and its most direct moment, ‘I’m Not The Phoenix Yet’ are a triptych that close the album’s first half with all the style and inventiveness of his best work.

Yet despite Heartbreaking Bravery’s many victories, it still feels like there’s a piece of the jigsaw missing – you’d be reluctant to assert that Krug is giving this project his full attention, or indeed prioritising it over any of his others. There are a few missteps here that he usually eschews with grace, namely the odd sloppy lyrical turn of phrase and the way that the album tails off for a couple of songs towards its end (it’s difficult to hate ‘Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips’, but it’s sure as hell predictable, and the closing ‘Lay Your Cheek On Down’ dabbles in reverb in a heavy-handed way compared to the more successful subtle approach on the rest of the record).

Part of you will want Krug’s next move to be just pick a bloody band and stick with it. But know that the name of that band doesn’t really make a difference. If he does focus everything on one project for a moment, whatever project that might be (there are enough highpoints to this debut LP to suggest Moonface are a good candidate for the attention), the results are always likely to be an understated kind of spectacular.

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