Moonface - Julia With Blue Jeans On | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret


Julia With Blue Jeans On

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man.

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Author: on November 19, 2013
October 29, 2013

Where the fuck is Wolf Parade? Yes, I get it; following the excellent Expo 86 the band went on an indefinite hiatus, their existence wasn’t exactly copacetic to begin with. This is a band who nearly imploded in front of my eyes during their set at the Massachusetts incarnation of Download 2007 – there, Spencer Krug and compatriot Dan Boeckner engaged in very visible arguments about whether or not the band should be road-testing their still-to-be-released sophomore effort. Comparing the quality of Apologies to the Queen Mary and At Mount Zoomer aside, the new songs were pretty excellent in a live setting, even as we all were just waiting for them to kick into “I’ll Believe In Anything”. This volatile inner fire within the two lead songwriters bleeds through every inch of Wolf Parade’s music, be it good or bad, and thankfully travels between their various side projects. It lives in Boeckner, yes, but especially in Krug, who never skimps when it comes to solo output; he is decidedly more prolific than Boekner, but you could argue this has granted him an easier avenue away from his main gig.

Where does this leave us with Krug, then? On the moon, simply put, nestled into some cozy crater. Or, more literally: at a piano, sat down for our observation. Julia With Blue Jeans On is the fourth release from Krug under his Moonface moniker, and unlike his time spent with Swan Lake or Sunset Rubdown, these records are basically The Spencer Krug Show. Julia is the first instance since Moonface’s debut Dreamland EP that Krug is the sole occupant – this record is just the man, his voice and his piano. Eschewing from his usual forays into synth-dipped, wide-eyed keyboard crescendos, Krug instead strives for an organic sound on this record. Really, a good portion of the Moonface records – even at Krug’s peak under the moniker with Finnish band Siinai or the post-Rubdown “Fast Peter” – have seen the synthesizer wunderkind move towards a more acoustic sound. But Julia With Blue Jeans On is the ultimate assertion of this intention; Krug has stripped down all the production tweaks to reveal what has kept so many infatuated with his music for over a decade now: simply, he is an exceptional songwriter and lyricist.

Julia is probably the most heartbreaking Krug’s music has sounded since his debut with Wolf Parade, or Swan Lake’s lyrical lows a la “All Fires”. Krug has always flourished in the gloomiest of realms – he makes longing and strife sound eloquent. “And you paced outside my house / like a tiger in a cage / and I tried to keep my cool / as I leaned against the doorframe”, Krug direly illustrates on the outstanding “November 2011”; wherein he slams away at his piano keys, which swirl and coalesce into one immense hook that finds Krug assuring us, “we both know we are both crazy”, as his lover walks out the door. This is typical Krug: thought-provoking, spirit breaking lyrics, sky-bound hooks bigger pop acts would die for, and vivid imagery executed on a minimalist scale. It’s this stripped-down nature that gives Julia such replay value and furthermore continues to cement Krug as one of the more vital voices to be found in modern indie rock. Julia, if nothing else, stands as a testament to just how talented this man is at creating excellent rock music with tools generally reserved for the non-Rockist musical world.

It can be difficult, then, to truly emphasize how much of a revelation Julia is from Krug. While the album’s intrinsic magic lies within how well this shit plays as just Spencer-with-piano, it’s not as if Krug hasn’t been a one-man-show previously. But unlike the Dreamland EP, or some of the more singular songs crafted when Moonface expanded into two distinctly different bands, this is the first time he’s truly felt alone. The coinage of Moonface becomes that more fitting too, as Krug’s music really seems quite alien on this record. Alien because Krug is accentuating his quirky eccentricities through widely-accepted means. It’s just him and his ivories planted into some vacant setting, where he is left to do little more than wail away as his voice echoes across the landscape. “Everyone has found themselves at the end of their rope / looking up at the boat / saying, ‘I don’t know’”, he poignantly reveals on “Everyone Is Noah, Everyone Is the Ark”. This statement, while gorgeous in its broken nature, can be viewed from a different angle in regards to Moonface – this is Krug’s outlook on his own artistry. He’s revealing to us that Julia is a palette cleansing of sorts – something that needed to happen for Krug to ideally move forward as a musician. That “I don’t know” is him stating that maybe, during the record’s gestation, he had little reason to keep going. If anything though, Julia is proof that Krug has a lot more to reveal to us – that even in his most minimal form, there are layers upon layers of his music that welcome discussion and dissection. That alone, I feel is something worth praising. Thankfully he doesn’t skimp on the tunes here, as Julia is probably his most consistent solo-record to date. One that is difficult to leave without taking a little bit of Julia along with you each time.

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