One of the things that made Wolf Parade’s Apologies To The Queen Mary so remarkable was its songwriting partnership between Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug. The most acclaimed songwriting teams – Lennon and McCartney, Droste and Rossen (of Grizzly Bear), Hall and Oates – have been remarkable because they were so opposite from one another; they were each other’s foils. Boeckner and Krug were this way as well, the former penning more accessible and more immediate compositions and the latter writing darker, more introspective pieces. This creative fusion carried Wolf Parade through three LPs and many memorable songs.
Yet Wolf Parade is on indefinite hiatus and both Boeckner and Krug have moved on to other projects. Boeckner’s Handsome Furs has furthered his gift for straightforward songwriting while Krug’s collaborations with Frog Eyes and Swan Lake, not to mention his leadership of Sunset Rubdown, have found new applications for his unique composition technique. It was really better when the two were writing together, though, because both kept the other’s idiosyncrasy in check. Now Krug has a new project, Moonface, and because it is a true solo act he is more untethered to Boeckner’s reservation and empathy than ever before. This means that the listener should expect nothing more from Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped than unadulterated Krugery for 37 minutes. Fans of his work will be pleased, but those looking to explore Canadian indie music for the first time should probably stick to The New Pornographers and Arcade Fire for now.
This record is magnetic hypnotism. This goes for the listener and for Spencer Krug himself, because the five tracks are so leviathan in their length and scope that one gets the feeling Krug stepped out of the way and let the music manifest itself. The fact that the album can choose to be organ music rather than vibraphone music suggests it is organic and autonomous. Thus Krug may find himself lost inside the work, which is actually a detriment to the listener: the music shows little consideration for the audience, as it often feels like Organ Music is for Krug’s pleasure and consumption rather than yours or mine. I must be in a particular mood to find “Whale Song (Song Instead Of A Kiss)” pleasurable at all, and when I am not in that mood, the track baffles, bemuses, and defeats me. Though Krug is a master composer (one of the best in independent music today), even he may not find this reaction to his work appealing. But Organ Music is hypnotism above all things, and the cuts achieve this by starting and ending in similar ways. The motifs are the same throughout, and because of this I felt I had spent a very short time in a very long song. The tracks are compositionally static, and Krug tries to transmogrify them not through songwriting but through lyrics. This is a unique choice for him, and it does lend itself to the trance it can put the listener in, but it does not work as well as it could.
For one thing, some of these lyrics are too jarring to be hypnotizing. In the aforementioned “Whale Song,” he slices hypnosis with “If I were you and you were me – sha la la la.” That brutal non sequitur draws the listener out of the song and suspends him above it: “Is this a parody?” he may ask, or “Of course Spencer would say that,” he may say. By the time the song envelops the listener again it is almost half over. Other odd phrases and sentences, like “He told me all about her on the balcony when we were high on drugs” and “They only talk on their computers” in “Fast Peter,” makes Krug seem disconnected for a moment, and that disconnects the listener as well. There are some nice lines as well, like the assonance in “Watching seagulls in the blizzard makes me see how much I miss her/ Makes me wish for ignorant bliss,” but because of the way this album is organized and approached many of the better lyrics are lost in a miasmatic trance.
However, the Moonface project and this album reinforce Spencer Krug’s ability as a composer and lyricist, though it doesn’t showcase it that well. This is not a bad record by any means, but it is a transitory statement from an excellent artist. Organ Music is the record Krug wanted to make, and while it provides an opportunity for the listener to hear what Krug sounds like without Boeckner or anyone else, it is not one that he can readily appreciate or apprise. It is a work that imparts fleeting interest, but seems to be a foothold for Krug on his way to more varied and accessible accomplishments. If he were a poet, Organ Music would be Spencer Krug’s inaccessible and convoluted limerick – a feat perhaps only he could muster.
Stream: “Whale Song (Song Instead Of A Kiss)”