Harry Harland (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown & Moonface)
What links the three bands listed above? Step forward Spencer Krug, the best songwriter you’ve never heard of.
Over the past decade or so, Montreal has become a very interesting place for music. It has been experiencing the sort of sonic renaissance that Seattle underwent in the early 90’s, when the likes of Nirvana made it the undisputed centre of grunge. Led by the burgeoning popularity of standard-bearers Arcade Fire, the city has been acquiring a very unique sound. Call it post-punk, chamber pop or any variation on plain old ‘indie’, there is no denying that there is something of an established scene there now.
Ask any musician from the area who is really driving the movement though, and one name will feature prominently. Spencer Krug.
Krug, just 34 years old, is a man who cannot be accused of being work-shy. In the last decade, he has been involved as singer and songwriter for 6 different projects, releasing a staggering 15 albums in the process. He even makes Jack White look positively monogamous, which given the numbers of pies his talented fingers are in, is quite some feat.
There simply isn’t time to fully elaborate on all his many projects, so I will concentrate on the three who I believe to be his best.
First up is Wolf Parade, probably his most famous project, especially on these shores. The band, for whom Krug shares singing duties with fellow Canadian Dan Boeckner, have released three full length albums, the most recent of which (Expo 86) came relatively close to the mainstream after the Times had it as their CD of the week.
Sounding like a cross between Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire, minus some of their more elaborate moments, my personal favourite release of theirs is debut album Apologies to the Queen Mary. It’s a great album, which manages the neat trick of combining a big sound with the feeling that it was recorded in a garage. In one take. With all the tracks coming in around the four minute mark, it’s also arguably the most accessible of Krug’s projects.
Next up is Sunset Rubdown, who I personally consider to be his best act. Krug founded them a year after Wolf Parade’s 2003 debut as an official side project for himself.
Without the onus of sharing songwriting duties with Boeckner, Krug is given a free rein to go absolutely nuts, and boy does he make the most of it. The feel is much more experimental, with every song flying all over the place, changing key and tempo completely at his whim.
It’s pretty hard to pigeon-hole their sound, except to say that it’s probably up there with the most experimental pop music that you’ll hear for some time. Just when you think a song is becoming predictably catchy, it turns left at the traffic lights and boards the number 12 bus to somewhere completely different.
For those with a slightly more adventurous taste in music, this band and particularly their astonishing third album Dragonslayer will be a real treat. Their music might be a little too avant-garde for some, but if it strikes a chord with you, you’ll be listening to it repeatedly for months.
Lastly (to bring a bit of contemporary relevance to this article) come Moonface, who released new album Heartbreaking Bravery a few weeks ago.
A more proggy affair, the album finds Krug being supported by the brooding, atmospheric krautrock of a Finnish band called Siinai. It’s a more mature, minimalist and structured release than many of his previous ones, yet it still holds you with its menacing ambiance.
So there you have it, in his very own traditions, a rambling introduction to Spencer Krug, a man who just might be the greatest songwriter of his generation. Make sure he’s not unbeknown to you.
Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary
Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer
Moonface with Siinai – Heartbreaking Bravery
Moonface are playing Cargo, EC2 London on Tuesday 29th May