Don't dismiss Sunset Rubdown as a side project to Wolf Parade and Frog Eyes. Lead singer Spencer Krug's other two bands are better-known among the indie-rock cognoscenti, but if this album's any indication, Krug thinks it should be the other way around. While Shut Up has a basement-recording ambience to it, the arrangements are complex yet accessible and complement his, well, complex yet accessible lyrics. Side projects usually aren't so cohesive in theme--recurring lyrical references to snakes, water, death and other biblical matter point to some spiritual struggle, especially in the strongest track, "The Men Are Called Horsemen There."
On "Horsemen," synths and carnival organ waltz and churn under distorted and reverbed guitars before the whole mess builds to a climax and then staggers on for another minute to the 7:00 mark. Throughout the album, screaming synths, mournful or triumphant guitars and herky-jerky beats vie with Krug's singing (which is at times annoyingly emotional and Bowie-esque but usually suits the music) for attention. "Swimming" opens with dissonant piano notes out of some horror movie, jolts into a minor-key organ line in a weird but infectious beat, then finally halts for a moment just before showing off Sunset's best trick, used repeatedly on Dreaming to good effect: a rapturous cacophony. It's the kind of sonic motif that would get old, if it weren't so appropriate for this triumph of an album.
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