Jagjaguwar, 2011

Spencer Krug is one of those songwriters who is as obsessed with the semantics and process of art as he is with art itself. One consequence of this is that he will not pass up an opportunity to switch monikers if it seems appropriate. And so, with Wolf Parade on hiatus and Sunset Rubdown a full-on band, no longer the outlet for lo-fi scribbles it once was, we get Moonface, which is, as Krug writes in a press release, “not a band, just plain half-old me, in any solo or collaborative projects I’m involved in from now until whenever.”

This full-length album is a follow-up to last year’s Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums. With this new project Krug is being nothing if not descriptive: just as Dreamland was a misty exploration of dream played entirely on marimba and atrociously-recorded drums, Organ Music is a series of swirling, mid-tempo organ ballads.

In the press release Krug writes that his intention was to make a drone album, but somewhere along the line his pop sensibilities took over. I’m afraid we got the worst of both worlds: Organ Music is too plodding to be great pop and too riff-filled to be great drone. Krug has proven himself one of indie pop’s most interesting songwriters, and whether you find his voice compelling or annoying (I’m in the former camp), it’s difficult to totally discount his unique song structure and instrumentation. But most of that is absent here, which leads me to believe that Krug draws strength from his collaborators; without them he produces an album that is not terrible but is certainly mediocre, and frankly an astonishing departure from the high quality of recent releases by Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown.

Opener “Return to the Violence to the Ocean Floor” is far and away the album’s best song, but it’s unclear to me whether this has more to do with the song itself or with the fact that the mid-tempo-organ-and-fake-drums shtick has not yet become exhausting. In any case, the organ riffs swirl around each other interestingly and the melody and lyrics are good. “Whale Song (Song Instead of a Kiss)” begins intriguingly, but builds far too slowly and completely burns out by the halfway point. “Fast Peter,” though initially catchy and certainly clever in a deadpan sort of way (“So Peter loves a girl/The way that only Peter does/He told me all about it on the balcony/When we were high on drugs”), is not interesting enough to sustain its runtime, especially given the insufferable three-minute coda. By the time we get to “Shit-Hawk in the Snow,” the organ’s timbre and the murky reverb on Krug’s voice have become grating, and this track ends up little more than an annoyance. “Loose Heart = Loose Plan” is mercifully bouncy and groovy, and it is not only the album’s shortest track (6:39), but also the only one that does not overstay its welcome.

Count this as one only for the truly Krug-obsessed. All others are unlikely to be willing to forgive the monotony and self-indulgence. This doesn’t shatter my face in Krug, but it does make me doubt his ability to flourish without the creative influence of at least a bandmate or two.