Sunset Rubdown
Random Spirit Lover
Label ©  Jagjaguwar
Release Year  2007
Length  58:23
Genre  Indie
Personal Star Rating [1-5]  
  Ref#  S-0307
Bitrate  192 Kbps
  Info   ·Have it On Vinyl
    Track Listing:
      The Mending Of The Gown  
      Magic Vs. Midas  
      Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days  
      The Courtesan Has Sung  
      Winged/Wicked Things  
      Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns  
      For The Pier (And Dead Shimmering)  
      The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life  
      Setting Vs. Rising  
      Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot!  
      Child-Heart Losers  
    Additional info: | top
      Their third full-length features twelve songs that bleed in and out of each other, mixing portents with theatrics, confusions with conversions. "Beyond writing catchy tunes and packing them with whispers, mallets, harpsichord, and patches of cheapskate drum machines, [Spencer Krug's] an intriguing presence. Instead of bubbling along at one level, he roller coasters and raves, mixing nonsense with sharp observations and sadness with puns" - Pitchfork. "Shut Up I Am Dreaming" on Absolutely Kosher SoundScanned over 15,000 copies and earned Pitchfork's "Best New Music" tag.

      Sunset Rubdown
      Random Spirit Lover
      [Jagjaguwar; 2007]
      Rating: 8.5

      Between Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes, and Swan Lake, Spencer Krug might be the most prolific indie rocker this side of Bob Pollard. The Montreal-based musician may still be best known for Wolf Parade, but while that band's flash-and-bang masks some surprisingly subtle songwriting, Sunset Rubdown's music quietly creeps under your skin. Despite the unifying thread of Krug's cracked, emphatic voice, Wolf Parade's bombast and Sunset Rubdown's nuance make them very different bands.

      There are precedents for the elegant, cobwebby Random Spirit Lover: Frog Eyes' dark, dramatic vocals and abstruse lyrics, Xiu Xiu's creepy instrumentation, and Modest Mouse's off-kilter guitar rock. But these predecessors are, at best, just a frame-- it's Krug's exquisite attention to detail that makes this such a striking album. Random Spirit Lover's songs have verses, choruses, and bridges like most other pop/rock songs, but they're so architecturally complex and harmoniously joined that the boundaries between them become erased. In a song-driven era, Sunset Rubdown is making a strong case for the album.

      Krug stitches his suites together so adeptly that it's difficult to tell where one ends and the next begins, and yet, each song still retains its own unique character-- a testimony to the album's careful crafting. The ascending plateaus of "Magic Vs. Midas" are shaggy and dim; "The Courtesan Has Sung" is a taut and martial; "Winged/Wicked Things" has a paradoxically bruising delicacy; "Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns" juxtaposes an atmospheric expanse with an inward-looking finale.

      But while Random Spirit Lover is dense and thorny-- even opaque, at times-- it's never haphazard. Its sonics are robustly melodic with layers of depth that emerge over time. "The Mending of the Gown" builds block by block, each amplifying the impact of its undulating melody. "For the Pier (and Dead Shimmering)" establishes a celestial uplift with harpsichord and synth tones, then collapses into a rock anthem. "The Taming of the Hands that Came Back to Life" features singing guitar leads, dewy glockenspiels, and squelchy synths in its sprightly stutter-step.

      Throughout all this instrumental pageantry, Krug's vocal presence is strong, both as a stylist and a lyricist. There's more than a whiff of obscure mysticism and archaic vocabulary in his lyrics, which might turn off more literal listeners. But Krug has a knack for couching his baffling imagery in compelling, repetitive syntax that shapes a narrative from his procession of characters-- courtesans, jackals, virgins, and stallions.

      Insofar as I can boil down Sunset Rubdown to a single moment, it's one near the end of "Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days". The song's maniacal carnival music, which until this point has rocketed through a rollercoaster's worth of peaks and valleys, settles into barren dirge where Krug's lyrics come clear. "Because you're the one who's riding around on a leopard," he sings with his usual creaky splendor. "You're the one who's throwing dead birds in the air." This moment doesn't compartmentalize Sunset Rubdown; it traces out the broadest contours of their allure: The striking image that sticks in the mind, unfathomable but heavy with meaning, for days; the carefully contrasted song structure, and the sense that this is a band uncompromising in its vision, making music with more depth and longevity than its stubborn relegation to "side project" merits.

      -Brian Howe, October 01, 2007
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