Album Review: Wolf Parade - EP 4

Album Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra

Oh man, oh man. Last week, Sub Pop released the deluxe 10th anniversary edition of the full-length debut of Wolf Parade, Apologies to the Queen Mary, on lush triple disc vinyl, pulling together all three of Wolf Parade's lead-up EPs and packaging it all in a glorious tri-fold of awesome. The same week, secret Wolf Parade alter ego band Del Scorcho played a show in BC, marking their true return to the stage before a return tour this summer. It's been a hot minute since we last saw Wolf Parade on Expo 86 back in 2010. Since then, both primary songwriters Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug have stayed painfully busy, both working on a plethora of other projects (for Dan, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, Operators, and for Spencer, four records as Moonface) and subsequent tours for most. But now, it's time! The boys are back, and we couldn't be more excited! To kick off their year of return, Wolf Parade give us the next in their series of self-titled EPs, and the first one we've seen since the pre-Apologies days of 2005. With EP 4, Wolf Parade look towards an exciting year with a great mixture of familiarity and discovery.

There aren’t many songwriters in the business as prolific as Wolf Parade’s two leading men. Though it has only been ten years since Apologies took us by storm, Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner have filled the interim with enough quality content for almost triple the time. Wolf Parade has always existed in tandem with all their other ongoing projects, and somehow, the spread of resources has never stunted the evolution of any of the individual pieces. Where Boeckner saved his poppier, more immediate numbers for Handsome Furs, he saved his most epic for the peaks of Mount Zoomer, where Wolf Parade braved the treacherous terrain of prog-rock and did it with style. In his own way, Spencer Krug let his galavanting sense of narrative lead the way through one Sunset Rubdown record after another, reigning in his most effective and cohive works on Expo 86. It’s this mixture that makes Wolf Parade what it is: one part spastic pop wunderkind with a heart on fire, and one part multiplicative bard believing in anything worth telling a story about. It’s the animal nature of each half that brings them together and carries Wolf Parade forward as an entity entirely unto itself.

With EP 4, Wolf Parade team up once again to give a teaser, and really, that’s all its meant to be. More is around the corner, but for now, we have a lean and mean 13 minutes of new material to whet the appetite for more. While it may not be optimal for those that have waited patiently over the last (almost) six years, the brevity is intentional. These are some of the tightest and immediately effective songs Wolf Parade has given us over their whole career. Both of Dan’s tracks fall under the three minute mark. Only one of Spencer’s tunes has a dramatic time signature change and build to an unexpected climax, but even that one still doesn’t make it past four minutes. In perfect timing and execution alongside the reissue of Apologies, this EP is a great re-entry point for fans both new and old. It shows off some of the best qualities and knacks of the band without spoiling any of the deeper rooted surprises you’ll find digging into the back catalogues and waiting for what’s next.

With the “we’re back at it again!” feeling of the return comes a similar theme in the songs herein. Both Dan and Spencer, each in their own way, carry a common motif of a return, for better or worse. The better or worse isn’t intended the reflect the band’s return, obviously. But rather, it’s a feeling of “haven’t we been here before?” that Boeckner and Krug both interpolate between new life experiences and bright new horizons. A lot has happened for both of these dudes in the time we last saw Wolf Parade, and the songs definitely reflect this when comparing back to the spacey exploration and fantastic landscapes of their prior records. Boeckner makes this painstakingly clear on EP opener “Automatic”. “I sing from a nowhere room, I call out for some connection”, Dan begs over a bullet train of a guitar hook, “A future unimproved, my heart beats on and on - it’s automatic.” Whether within or without Wolf Parade, Boeckner and Krug chew on joy and sorrow and change and upsets through music, and nothing’s going to change about that.

But change does come, and it does affect the way we see the world. Krug’s two songs, “Mr. Startup” and “C’est La Vie Way”, both tell a similar story of one door closing for another to open. “Blessed be the ones who let their blessings go”, Krug sings on “Mr. Startup”, watching close friends wait for dreams deferred to rejuvenate in a new light. Meanwhile, he watches a former lover whisper half-hearted wedding vows to a new flame with a shrug, letting one dream be snubbed out by a more immediate one. It’s all highly relatable stuff, soundtracked by blistering Wolf Parade grooves. “C’est La Vie Way” in particular has the drive and emotional attack of early INXS before it explodes into a climactic outro.

The EP ends with the only track we’ve heard before today, only now in fully fleshed out Wolf Parade form. “Floating World” previously appeared on the Handsome Furs’ curated soundtrack to 2013 John Cusack film Adult World, but here, closing out this small collection of melancholy jammers, it feels right at home. “I’m lost in the floating world beyond this one”, Boeckner sings, disconnected from relationship and untethered by the gravity that weighs the rest of us down. Wolf Parade’s return feels like a loudspeaker from that world to this one, where Boeckner and Krug howl away at their songs of love and life and devotion, waiting to see what another day brings. This summer, of course, brings a celebration of their return. What’s next after that, we can only hope and dream.

EP 4 is out now! Grab it at the band’s website digitally, or pre-order the 10” vinyl release! Wolf Parade will tour all summer, making a stop at both the Pickathon Music Festival and two dates in Seattle, 8/7 and 8/8. Grab tickets here.

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