What a difference a year makes. From humble beginnings as an informal side project to air out his lo-fi bedroom confessions, Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug has seen fit to transform Sunset Rubdown into a full-fledged group project for its second album, Shut Up I am Dreaming. Michael Doerksen, Jordan Robson Cramer and former Pony Up! member Camilla Wynne Ingr help flesh out what was a skeletal key-driven sound, turning the project from a novelty for Wolf Parade completists into a legitimate group worthy of its own fan base.
Though comparisons to Krug’s other group are inevitable, the likeness between the two begins and ends with the fact that Krug performs vocal duties for both groups. Wolf Parade plays a spastic, aggressive game of tug o’ war between co-frontman Dan Boeckner’s Springsteen-esque everyman rock and Krug’s more introspective numbers — a contest that, for better or worse, is absent in Sunset Rubdown. With Krug as the lone songwriter, the material is often more subdued and contemplative by comparison, serving as a platform for his art-rock tendencies.
This creative control by Krug is responsible for the album’s greatest strength and weakness. The positive is the treat of an entire album of Krug-penned songs. Having quickly proven himself a gifted songwriter with stand-out tracks such as “I’ll Believe in Anything” off Apologies to the Queen Mary, Krug continues to impress with clever phrasing, perhaps most notably on the title track: “If I fall into the drink/ I will say your name before I sink/ but oceans never listen to us anyway.” That said, without another songwriter in the mix to bounce ideas off of, Krug occasionally gives in to overindulgence, trying to pack too much into a song and leaving it bloated. “The Men Are Called Horsemen There” is a prime example, with too many little flourishes at the end dragging the song out needlessly and spoiling what should have been an album highlight.
Even with a few overdone songs, though, Shut Up I Am Dreaming is a solid effort. Cerebral and heartfelt, Krug’s efforts show that he has a viable musical life outside the wolf pack.
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