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DragonslayerSunset Rubdown was once the moniker under which Spencer Krug released lo-fi solo recordings. The project has long since evolved into a full band, and "Dragonslayer" is the third full-length. The musicianship is unassisted by studio magic, and the songs are left to justify for themselves their own screwy pop-rock existence.1. Silver Moons
2. Idiot Heart
3. Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anaa Oh!
4. Black Swan
5. Paper Lace
6. You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet Ii)
7. Nightingale / December Song
8. Dragon's Lair$16.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Enemy MineSwan Lake is the musical collaboration of Daniel Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade), and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes, Blackout Beach). While their debut was a beautifully weaved mash up of disparate songwriting styles, this second effort reflects a more stripped down, deliberate approach to collaboration. It's as if they really tried to just make nice songs together. LP contains digital download coupon.1. Spanish Gold, 2044
2. Paper Lace
4. Settle On Your Skin
5. Ballad Of A Swan Lake, Or, Daniel's Song
8. A Hand At Dusk
9. Warlock Psychologist$14.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Julia With Blue Jeans OnSince January 2010, Spencer Krug has used Moonface as a venue for home-recorded instrumental and
conceptual experimentation, expanding the ideas he developed collaboratively with Wolf Parade, Sunset
Rubdown, and Frog Eyes. Releases under this moniker have come quickly, each distinct from the other. The
Dreamland EP and Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped were conceptual excursions merging
instrumental and thematic fixations. After moving from Montreal to Helsinki, Krug teamed up with the
Finnish band Siinai to create a lush rock record-2012's Heartbreaking Bravery-driven by the dark despair
of a breakup. Staying in Helsinki, Krug set off on yet another creative departure, driven by a rediscovery of
love and a reconsideration of the Moonface persona he'd created for himself. The quietly stunning Julia with
Blue Jeans On is the fourth Moonface release, bringing a degree of intimacy and self-reflection unlike
anything Krug has produced to date.
There are only two sonic elements on Julia: Spencer Krug's voice and his piano. Richly recorded, they interact
seamlessly with one another. On the opening track "Barbarian," the piano unfolds with the hypnotic energy
of Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert, Krug's right hand doubling his vocal melody. On the closing track "Your
Chariot Awaits," Krug's voice recedes after a minute as the piano swells for an extended showcase with
modern classical undertones. After nearly a decade, across a number of guises, we are well-acquainted with
Krug's inimitable town-crier vocals; on Julia, we are introduced to a facet of his musical skill that feels
conservatory-trained. This is Krug as singer-songwriter, moving beyond star poses to a vision that is at once
more elegant and comfortable.
Or, in Krug's own language, on "Barbarian II": "I have chewed through my beautiful narrative." Much of Julia
is taken with this chewing. "Love the House You're In" opens by masquerading as self-pity, with a statement
that reads like a press release from someone who's given up. "I regretfully withdraw my offer to try and
improve myself," Krug gently sings, establishing a self-reflexive foundation upon which he builds the album's
most universal, humanistic sentiment, and which he delivers via its most soaring melody.
Purposeful self-evaluation is one tactic for reinvention, but as Krug illustrates on Julia's title track, everyday
occurrences can prove transformative as well. The sight of a woman, clad in denim, briefly visible at the
bottom of a staircase, he learns, is capable of "obliterating everything I've ever written down." "Julia" is an ode
in the classical sense, pivoting around the beauty inherent in the most simple, taken-for-granted sights. Krug
acknowledges this, opening the song by admitting that "it's a madman's game, making the commonplace
unreal." What he leaves out in this admission, however, is the key to the countless charms of Julia with Blue
Jeans On: by expertly playing this ridiculous game, he can erase the madness that spawned it.1. Barbarian
2. Everyone is Noah, Everyone is the Ark
3. Barbarian II
4. November 2011
5. Dreamy Summer
6. Julia with Blue Jeans On
7. Love the House You're In
8. First Violin
9. Black is Back in Style
10. Your Chariot Awaits$17.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Popular ManipulationsIt's not uncommon for musicians to grow and evolve between releases-but even by those standards, the Districts' Popular Manipulations is stunning. The Pennsylvania-borne band's third full-length represents an exponential leap in sound and cohesion, an impressive and impassioned burn with a wide scope that threatens to swallow everything else surrounding it. Perhaps it's a clichÉ to say so, but while listening, you might find yourself wondering why people don't make indie rock like this anymore.
The total electric charge of Popular Manipulations is just the latest evolution for the impressively young quartet, whose founding members-vocalist/guitarist Rob Grote, bassist Connor Jacobus, and drummer Braden Lawrence-have known each other since attending grade school together in the Pennsylvania town of Lititz. After deciding to form a band in high school, the Districts gigged hard in the tri-state area, releasing a slew of promising material (including the rootsy 2012 debut Telephone) before catching the eye of venerable indie Fat Possum. 2015's A Flourish and a Spoil found the band refining their embryonic sound with veteran producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Kurt Vile)-and looking back on that release, there are glimmers of Popular Manipulations in chrysalis form to be found on it, hints of the fence-swinging anthemic sound they'd soon make wholly their own.
After touring behind A Flourish and a Spoil, Grote began playing with different ideas in his own songwriting by making demos at a prolific pace. We knew that we wanted to change some things musically, so we were trying to come up with as many songs as possible to narrow the direction we wanted to take the material, he states. In total, they ended up with 50 song ideas, and so they were off to LA in May of 2016 with new guitarist Pat Cassidy in tow to log more recording time with Congleton, with four of Popular Manipulations' songs coming out of the sessions.
We have a lot of overlapping tastes and preferences for how things are made, Grote gushes about working with the notably reliable studio wizard-but acceding all credit to Congleton (who also handled the record's mixdown) would be shortchanging the Districts themselves, who went on to self-produce the remainder of the record in Philadelphia with engineer Keith Abrams. Something we took from working with Congleton was ideas on arranging songs, Grote explains, and they certainly learned a lot: Popular Manipulations is a raucous and impressively thick-sounding album, overflowing with toothy melodies that pack a serious punch.
The distinctly intense sound of Popular Manipulations-charging guitars, thunderous drumming, and Grote's searing vocals-was brought on by a few cited influences, from shoegaze's aggressive swirl to the Velvet Underground's impeccable drone-rock sound. There's a distinctly Canadian flavor to this brand of indie rock, too; Spencer Krug's anthemic, lushly inscrutable work in Wolf Parade and his defunct Sunset Rubdown side project comes to mind, as does 2000s Toronto barnburners the Diableros' overlooked 2006 gem You Can't Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts.
But don't mistake easy comparisons for a lack of originality: on Popular Manipulations, the District are in a lane entirely their own, exploring lyrical themes of isolation and abandonment in a way that ups the music's already highly charged emotional quotient. Capable finds Grote turning his focus to the ruinous aftermath of divorce, and Before I Wake is, in his words, About coming to terms with being isolated or alone-even though we have a whole group of voices singing the whole time. Grote explains that even the title of the record touches on these universal concerns: It hints at how people use each other, for good or bad, and the personal ways you manipulate yourself and other people in day-to-day interactions.
For such weighty thematic material, though, Popular Manipulations is purely life-affirming rock music, bursting with energy that cuts through the darkness of the world that surrounds us. We're a much better distillation of who we wish to be as a band, Grote reflects on the journey that has led the Districts to this point. We've figured out how to distill the things we've been trying to accomplish as a band, musically and lyrically. We've always viewed making music as something we're trying to do better the whole time. Mission accomplished.1. If Before I Wake
3. Ordinary Day
5. Why Would I Wanna Be
8. Fat Kiddo
10. Rattling of the Heart
11. Will You Please Be Quiet Please?$18.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now