Just because it’s fun for you to sing your songs doesn’t mean it’s fun for us to listen to them. Or so someone should’ve told Sunset Rubdown’s Spencer Krug before he belted out these 12 new ones. Random Spirit Lover answers last year’s quietly wisecracking Shut Up I Am Dreaming with much affirmative bellowing, as if the band found itself atop a mountain and discovered the joy of echo-o-o-o-o. Formerly the tuneful-est bunch of jesters in the Canadian Nü-Romantic court, Krug’s Wolf Parade side-hustle still traffics in glam surrealism, but not as economically (or as wittily) as before. Lover‘s defects stem less from long length than from how densely Krug packs each nervous tic. Namely, SUPRDNSLY. Foodstuffs this fulsome command $10 supplemental charges on prix fixe menus and usually digest more smoothly.
The intense moments here could shatter good masonry. “Shit, I know we’re all getting old,” Krug says resignedly at one point, setting up a thrilling salvation-by-guitar-solo. But the whole thing would ring so much louder, I think, if he didn’t have to sweat so hard working up the force. Album-wide, he’s fighting big waves of bombastic production that constantly threaten to submerge him, when simpler treatments would better serve the pluck-the-day urgency of his voice. It can make for compelling drama: Krug vs. the world and blistering guitar riffs. But too great a fraction of Lover‘s demands feel frivolous. Barring career highlight “The Mending of the Gown,” which must be the catchiest denouement ever to open a record, all songs build intrigue better than they deliver payoff. That includes “Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns,” which brings poltergeist arpeggios and snowdrifts of fuzz guitar, but not, alas, the polycorn promised in the title.