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Wolf Parade | Apologies to the Queen Mary (Sub Pop)
Of the scores of albums I've already heard this year, it is this first full-length release from Montreal's Wolf Parade that has me the most perplexed. Until sitting down to listen purely with a critical ear for this examination, I had chosen to dig this out on a number of occasions, and listened all the way through. And yet, I still have no true idea if I even like it that much. But there is obviously something pulling me back - and holding me back. Sure, there is the great pop writing of the urgent Shine A Light. And there is the driving, fuzzed-up Fancy Claps, or the epic Same Ghost Every Night and I'll Believe In Anything, but...
For a start, the production is abrasive and ugly. Apologies is dominated by Arlen Thompson's crashing drums and hissing cymbals that just don't suit the richness of sound that he and colleagues Dan Boeckner, Spencer Krug and Hadji Bakara appear to be striving for. It is no surprise that Wolf Parade has toured with The Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse (whose Isaac Brock has long-championed Boeckner), and this is where my major concerns arise: Wolf Parade sound so uncomfortably like both bands (only messier) much of the time (albeit without strings in the former's case) that I feel the need to look away in embarrassment.
As one of the most anticipated indie releases of the year, I have to say that it has come as a disappointment, but...yes, it does boast a clutch of excellent songs that do seem to hold strange magnetic powers, as frustrating as the whole package is overall. If Wolf Parade can find the right elements to tart up their sound in finding more of a voice of their own, and totally rethink their production ethics, I will still be listening with great interest.