Sunset Rubdown

Random Spirit Lover (Jagjaguwar Records)

Some day Spencer Krug will reveal some hint of human fallibility. Good news—it's still yet to come. To follow the Sunset Rubdown full-length Shut Up I Am Dreaming with an equally great album just more than a year later is remarkable, especially considering he continues to write for and play with Wolf Parade, Swan Lake and Frog Eyes.

Like Shut Up, Random Spirit Lover is more than just a collection of songs; it's an album, with each song blending smoothly into the next, and lyrical symbols and themes recurring. Krug's lyrics are as sad, vague and open to interpretation as ever. Actors, horses, birds and leopards show up in multiple songs, as lovers deceive each other onstage and off. The comparison and contrast of real magic to stage trickery seems to be a comment on aging—another recurring theme—as if growing up is defined by the loss of childhood's magic. Sad stuff, sure, but there are some darkly funny lines too. "Think of the scene where a washed-up actor/Wipes the makeup off his wife and says/'Morticians must've took you for a whore,'" he sings in "The Courtesan Has Sung." Krug's distinctive yelping still conjures David Bowie at his most dramatic, which would be irritating if it didn't fit so perfectly.

Though Sunset Rubdown began as a Krug solo project, it has evolved into a four-piece that is clearly coming into its own musically. Along with Krug's bombastic keyboards—including an oddly fitting steel-drum sound on "For the Pier (and Dead Shimmering)"—Michael Doerksen's screaming guitars, glockenspiel, autoharp (or zither?) and accordions add a chaotic, playful feel on even the most melancholy songs. Camilla Wynne Ingr adds beautiful harmonies, especially on closer "Child-Heart Losers." Middle track "Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns" is the perfect intermission piece for the album, as the burbling, reverb-drenched keyboards devolve into a spooky, paranoia-inducing mess that could have played over the climax of some late-'70s horror flick.

 
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