Montreal’s Wolf Parade has always approached pop from unconventional places. For their fourth album, the band centers around moody pianos and organs to make a record with a unified voice. Sonically pushing themselves, they make some truly polished pop, that’s often safe in its composition. While definitely one of the band’s most catchy records in years, it suffers greatly from sounding too much like everything else.
Moody piano and a steady beat sets the tone on “Lazarus Online,” as they slowly carve out a dark and worried crawl. In their choruses however they bring in tones of electronica and soaring guitars to show their sense of rebellion as they fight against their oppressors. Beating right out into some exciting indie pop, “You’re Dreaming” is a fast and happy shred of a track. Somewhere between its simple organ hooks and more pained lyrical sensibility gives the song an exciting depth.
Taking this feeling in a more explosive and dynamic journey, “Valley Boy” has a weird art-pop sensibility to its thrust as it explores its catchy moments by using more unorthodox rhythms. Across its dense but wondrous instrumentation the track pulls you into its magic while leaving you dancing the whole time. On bouncy piano lines “Incantation” takes a fairly familiar set of hooks and makes something tight and raw within it. This said it really doesn’t offer up anything much new within this to step ahead of its inspiration.
“Flies on the Sun” takes a much more methodical and slow-burning approach, as it lets its piano glide around to bring more emotional depth out of the vocals. Along with some sun-drenched guitars, the track shines so bright in its choruses that it feels more catchy than derivative. Getting surprisingly abrasive and aggressive, “Baby Blue” is the most groovy and fascinating track on the record. Blending tones of dance with a quirky dark-rock, it mixes enough unusual elements to really take off.
Coming in with an immediately gripping piano hook that builds as the guitars turn it into a chorus, “Weaponized” works best in its use of dynamics. While occasionally a little too predictable, the second half of the song really shakes things up a lot for the better. “Who Are Ya” moves with a relentless energy, letting the uncontainable energy of the vocals drive everything else. Serving more as an excited guitar and vocal piece, it’s at its best when it gets really dense in choruses.
Existential and a lyrical joy to follow, “Am I an Alien Here” starts to feel like it’s following a formula at parts. Despite this, its weird sonic exploration that starts to permeate as the song goes on really helps smooth this out. Running with their usual high-energy synth rock, “Artificial Life” somehow makes reggae feel like classic indie rock. Along their catchy vocals and bouncy writing, they really start to let the keys run wild in the finale. It’s a shame “King of Piss and Paper” closes out the record, as its more epic composition freshens up the pace of the album a lot, making for something truly entrancing in their new sonic spectrum.
Words by Owen Maxwell