Those hoping for another Wolf Parade album will have to wait around until at least this fall, as members of the group seem to be having a fine time taking their time on a follow-up while going about their merry ways on different side projects. With band member Spencer Krug not only a member of Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, and Frog Eyes, guitarist and singer Dan Boeckner has now formed his own little side project Handsome Furs with his fiancee Alexei Perry.
Joined by Wolf Parade drummer Arlen Thompson on a couple songs, the duo have created something much more minimal and repetitive than the work by Wolf Parade. There's a lot of simple programmed beats, buzzing synths, and of course the wounded vocals from Boeckner himself. A good mixture of damaged and dark, the release is a hit-or-miss effort that at times finds the two locking into something amazing while in other places sounding a bit more like track sketches than fleshed-out ideas.
"What We Had" opens things and is actually one of the more traditional-sounding songs on the release, with some scratchy guitars and buzzy synths laying down a nice melodic framework over a simple beat and some hang dog vocals from Boeckner. From there, things aren't so straightforward, and the result is an album that works with varying degrees of success as the duo press forward with lots of songs that are largely uneasy. At five minutes, "Handsome Furs Hate This City" feels way too long, and only really starts to feel like it's going somewhere during the latter third.
Despite a really sagging middle section, Plague Park picks up nicely during the latter third and redeems itself quite a bit. "Dead + Rural" is a three-minute slab of electronic pop juicy-ness that mixes chugging synth arpeggios with more dry heaves of guitar while "Dumb Animals" is another longer track (almost six minutes) that moves with a good sense of urgency (mainly by mixing some sparse piano and guitars around a tense and quivering synth line) before building into a more damaged, rocking finale. In terms of Wolf Parade side projects, this one is no more trying than Swan Lake or Frog Eyes, but it's obviously nowhere near as immediate as work from the main group. If you don't expect too much going in, Handsome Furs have created a semi-sloppy little release that should help tide most fans over until everyone gets their other little projects out of their system.