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Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital

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Artist: Handsome Furs

Album: Sound Kapital

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Aug. 24, 2011

Dan Boeckner has a fondness for the anthemic. Both as a member of Wolf Parade and in Handsome Furs with Alexei Perry, Boeckner’s music tends towards the heroic, the choruses readymade for singing along, the hooks designed to uplift spirits. Sound Kapital is the third album Boeckner and Perry have made together, and the textures have shifted away from the guitar-based songs of their debut, Plague Park, to something much more electronic in its construction. Drum machines and keyboards abound here. Whereas one may have been tempted, as of a few years ago, to cite Boeckner and Perry as Springsteen disciples, their work is now more likely to earn them Cut Copy comparisons — different paths that nonetheless summon a feeling of elation.

Consider the image of release at the center of “Memories of the Future”: “I put my hands to the sky / I let my memories go.” The phrase makes like those memories and fades away, letting the robotic beat take us out. This is echoed on “Repatriated,” in which Perry makes a rare vocal appearance. The song shifts from densely constructed melodies to sparser sections, a give-and-take that plays out over a steady and infectious rhythm. As the song reaches its peak, a guitar (or a reasonable facsimile) roars to life: “I’ve seen the future and it’s coming in low / I’ve seen the future / I will never be repatriated,” Boeckner sings defiantly.

Sound Kapital never quite settles into a comfortable pattern of pop. The first 15 seconds of opener “When I Get Back” feature slightly distorted vocals over a skeletal beat. Though it eventually settles into a more established dancefloor configuration, those first moments are intentionally jarring, the lines “When I get back home / I won’t be the same no more” serving as the album’s thesis statement. “Cheap Music,” the album’s penultimate song, embodies even more tension. Though the melodies never stray into paranoia or dissonance, certain lyrics (“Now that the money’s gone”) and the squall of guitars raise the level of tension. When Boeckner starts shouting different cities into the microphone (“Bangkok,” “Belgrade”), it doesn’t challenge Sound Kapital‘s overarching mood as much as reveal another dimension to it.

“Cheap Music” could be the sonic analogue of the album’s artwork, which contrasts densely populated social spaces with empty expanses of infrastructure. It’s an unexpected nod towards the cerebral on an album whose initial impact is felt on the gut level — and it makes that experience that much richer.

By Tobias Carroll

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