Listen to the brittle indie pop of Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary and it’s easy to understand why the band’s guitarist, Dan Boeckner, was able to get a record deal when the Handsome Furs were still just a concept. Representing the stronger half of the Wolf Parade lyric team, Boeckner has joined up with his fiancée, poet Alexei Perry, for Plague Park, an album of dark, soaring melancholy layered between themes of world-weariness, longing and a wry disdain for everyday life.
While Wolf Parade was a proving ground for Boeckner’s lyrical abilities, the Handsome Furs spotlight his uncanny knack for using brevity to his advantage, both with songwriting and music. On the bleak electronica of “Handsome Furs Hate This City,” Boeckner lazily croons, “Oh, life is long and hollow” over the delicately synthesized beats that peek into a minimalist soundscape. “What We Had” could be an outtake from Beck’s Sea Change; heartbreak set to sluggish distorted guitar. “Sing! Captain” recalls the somber post-punk atmosphere that was Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy’s stock in trade.
Using only a guitar, drum machine and synthesizer, Plague Park is mostly bleak and ethereal, but multiple listens reveal a dramatic romanticism that’s more glow than gloom. (Jonathan Stumpf)