i got a sandcastle heart

Like their previous release, At Mount Zoomer, Wolf Parade‘s Expo 86 is mostly fantastic with a few tracks that, while not bad, are not as gripping as the rest. Fortunately for us all,¬†Expo 86 is front-loaded with dance-ready kick that eases into a slow burn.

Synth-heavy and 80s vibes abound, the songs on the album are at once filled with energy and tinged with ¬†melancholy. “Palm Road” is a perfect example; while dark, it still makes you want to dance. Also of note are “Little Golden Age” (the first-listen favorite) and single “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)”. The lyrics of the latter are at times striking, and one phrase is downright novel-worthy: “I wonder if all the beaches / in all your holiday towns / will turn into giant shining earrings against the cheek of the sea / when finally this supernova goes down.” Gorgeous.

While the beginning of Expo 86 breeds excitement, the latter loses steam. There’s cohesion among the halves, due to the basic instrumentation and vocalist Spenser Krug’s distinctive delivery, but the tracks lack the memorable punch that so captures listeners in the beginning.

The final blow comes with closer “Cave-O-Sapien”, which recalls Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” to the point of distraction (seriously – play WP @ 3:52, then BI @ :38). However, it may all be with a wink, a nod, and a stroke of genius from Wolf Parade, as Stereogum reported that Krug’s main criterion for the songs was whether or not he would dance to them. While all the songs may not strike my fancy, it doesn’t matter – Krug and company are going to dance anyway.

Expo 86 drops 06.29.10.
More on Wolf Parade at their Sub Pop artist page.
Download “What Did My Lover Say” and “Ghost Pressure” by right-clicking.

i been here so long my heart is a parking lot

Sometimes live music has the ability to be bigger than itself. Bigger than the band, bigger than the audience, bigger than what’s happening right before one’s eyes. At the Majestic in Madison, WI, Wolf Parade managed to do just that on November 10, 2008.

Throughout the evening, Wolf Parade whipped out jam after jam, keeping the energy consistently high. The Majestic was packed with rabid fans, each opening note eliciting an impassioned cheer from the crowd. The five gents of Wolf Parade were clearly enjoying themselves, often thanking the crowd and graciously accepting the adulation. Adulation that was well-deserved – “Language City”, “I’ll Believe in Anything”, “Fine Young Cannibals”, and “Kissing the Beehive” were all absolutely ridiculous in the best possible way.

Be you a huge fan or curious newcomer, Wolf Parade has the chops and panache to elevate the evening into a transcendent experience. Live, the songs are utterly danceable and more multi-dimensional than their canned counterparts (which are, by the way, quite lovely). It is not often a performance can make your heart feel at once completely filled and impossibly light, but as was proved yesterday, is something that is entirely possible.

in my head there’s a city at night

Wolf Parade’s At Mount Zoomer is weird and nuanced and filled with bizarre energy. For the most part this works for them, but occasionally it works against.

At Mount Zoomer starts strong with the synth-accented 3/4 swirl of “Soldier’s Grin”, which builds to an impassioned release. The skipping piano march and hollowed-out vocals of “Call It A Ritual” continue to please. Zoomer also ends strong with the reigned-in 80s vibe of “Fine Young Cannibals” that would do Hall & Oates proud, and the grandiose epic that is “Kissing the Beehive”.

Though their quirkiness is part of their charm, Wolf Parade gets a bit too weird for the less-adventurous listener. Misplaced pop (“The Grey Estates”), a lengthly retro organ jam (“California Dreamer”), and an odd dance (“Bang Your Drum”) work together to make the middle of the album a little off-putting for the more sober among us.

This murky ground can be ignored, however, by the inclusion of “Language City” – a track that is earnest, stark at points, but still teeming with movement and warmth – and “An Animal in Your Care”, which begins relaxed and pretty but grows into a fierce declaration.

At Mount Zoomer dropped 06/17/08.
Get downloads and more from Wolf Parade’s Sub Pop page.