Dragonslayer battles preconceptions

Spencer Krug is quickly becoming a Canadian indie rock legend, but this status comes at the price of unrealistically high expectations. As a member of Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, and Frog Eyes, he’s released so many outstanding albums in the past five years that it’s tough to judge any new material on its own merits. So although Sunset Rubdown’s latest, Dragonslayer, is yet another solid release, it’s hard not to feel disappointed that it doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by Apologies to the Queen Mary or Shut Up I Am Dreaming.

Dragonslayer follows in the footsteps of recent albums by Wolf Parade and Swan Lake by stripping back the studio trickery in favour of a more organic sound. Much of the album was recorded live off the floor, placing the emphasis on the band’s performance rather than the production. But despite the simplified sonics, the songs themselves are as intricate as ever, with twisting structures and cryptic lyrics. Opener “Silver Moons” is a song that only Krug could have written, with a piano plunking out a baffling time signature and an inscrutable refrain of “Silver moons belong to you.”

There are no duds on Dragonslayer, but the trouble is that there aren’t really any knockouts either. There’s nothing here that’s likely to get under your skin in the same way that “I’ll Believe in Anything” or “Stadiums and Shrines II” did. The closest Krug gets to matching those past triumphs is “Black Swan,” which follows the Nirvana-patented quiet/loud/quiet formula with sparse, percussive verses interspersed by heavily distorted rock-outs. But despite being one of the nosiest, most immediate moments of Krug’s career, it still lacks the ethereal brilliance of his best work.

Dragonslayer is out June 23 via Jagjaguwar.
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