A Spencer Krug piano album-it had to happen sometime. In truth, the indie rock canon Krug's been mining over the past decade always seemed ill-fitting for his spectral croon. His is a voice that demands unfettered attention; one that craves a simple canvas from which to exhale mystical, metaphorical tropes. And somehow you knew the canvas was always going to be the piano.
Julia With Blue Jeans On actualizes the inevitable. The entirety of these 10 cuts is made up of only two elements: one piano, one voice. There are no overdubs, no harmonies, no screwdriving synth lines—this is as stripped down and streamlined a record as the Wolf Parade vanguard has ever produced. But it works.
Krug's always had the ability to lock listeners down into a world of allegory concerning matters of the heart.
Here, he concentrates this technique by minimising the sonic landscape and notching up the emotional decibels. What he creates is a record that can stride to the solid keystrokes of "Everyone Is Noah, Everyone Is the Ark" one minute, before floating into the title track's gushing swell of adulation the next.
This shifting cadence is the core to the record's flow. "Love the House You're In" spins a slow, mesmeric web of keys, while "Barbarian" and its sequel bleed extraordinary contemplation with every dashing stroke. But "November 2011" is the real killer. A tear-duct moistening yarn of entwined love, it's one of the most bewitching and disarming five minutes of music you'll hear this year.
Such candour is, perhaps, what's most remarkable about this recording. The piano has displaced Krug's veil of intellect and mystery. What remains is something warm, something sentimental, something beautiful. Spencer Krug has never sounded better.
First published here for Under the Radar