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Moonface - With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery

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Artist: Moonface

Album: With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Apr. 25, 2012

Spencer Krug, like his occasional bandmates Dan Bejar and Carey Mercer, makes music for people who want to reach out or who want to feel freely, but are repressed in some way, unable to. Instead, like some crypto-Jews, he practices in private, he emotes when no one is looking. This isn’t to say Krug isn’t emotive, but just that it’s not immediate. Whether it’s the limited nature of his voice or whether it’s his lyrics or both, there’s something there that adds that extra layer to fight through.

Despite this extra layer, there’s always a core of something true in Krug’s music, and the first Moonface album, Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped, conjured an interesting array of feelings through two separate musical strategies: quasi-minimalism and pop hooks. I’ve written before that one of the reasons minimalism hits us so hard is that our sense of beauty — when we feel something so beautiful that it hurts — is in part because our minds are trying to grasp something impossible to grasp, something expansive like a lake or perfectly symmetrical like a good-looking woman or man, or complex like a song filled with many simple melodies played a bit out of sync with each other. Organ Music isn’t pure minimalism per se, but it has those elements to it. Paired with that are pop melodies that hit that other part of our brains, the part that gets pleasure from simple repetition, from the ability to predict what’s happening next. Hitting those two parts of our brains as such feels good and feels lovely, and it’s a strategy Krug is good at employing.

With Finnish drone-rock group Siinai, his collaborators for the latest Moonface album Heartbreaking Bravery, Krug actually sheds a lot of the trappings of that first album, without ever actually changing the aesthetic experience for the listener. Lyrics are more straightforward, song structures and melodies less complex. Still , they retain the power and the beauty that Organ Music had by building and layering on one hand and employing pop hooks on the other — some even spectacularly odd pop hooks, like on “I’m Not the Phoenix Yet,” which is so standard and non-standard at the same time that it really works all your brain’s receptors like a perfect Tetris game.

Heartbreaking Bravery is not an especially weird album, certainly not in comparison with Krug’s other work, but it’s alluring and intriguing all the same.

By Andrew Beckerman

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Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped

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