New Releases From Handsome Furs, Architecture in Helsinki, and Keren Ann

Handsome Furs

Plague Park

(Sub Pop)

That it will be at least three years between Wolf Parade albums is enough to make anyone cry. But by now, co-frontmen Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner have had enough side projects—Swan Lake, Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes—to craft a Frankenstein-style WP album. Or have they? Boeckner said of his solo side project, Handsome Furs, that it's "basically Wolf Parade without the guy that everybody likes and no real instruments." But Handsome Furs' debut, Plague Park, takes the man who's been called the Springsteen/Beck-sounding one of the group and pairs him with drum-machine pyrotechnics courtesy of his fiancée, Alexei Perry. Emotions are mixed, tempos largely steady; the two of them trudge along, crafting some sheepishly sad, mixed-tempo electronica. The opening track, "What We Had," is an anthem to every relationship gone awry, with a hypnotic beat that almost manages to distract you from the fundamentally depressing lyrics. On the plodding-through-the-wilderness/synth-glitch number "Handsome Furs Hate This City," Boeckner sings of urban disaffection and isolation, and the musical drive evident in the beginning of songs like "Cannot Get, Started" and "Sing! Captain!" doesn't always hold through to the songs' end; they start brightly but end slowly, like a road trip ending in a nap, shades drawn. Handsome Furs will no doubt be compared to the Postal Service—a side project given a drum machine that (surprise!) isn't quite like the original. They're not here to comfort or rock, and dances will end midflight, but Plague Park's blissfully crackling compositions will find fans in anyone looking for a different brand of IDM: intelligent daydream music. KARLA STARR

Listen to Handsome Furs' "What We Had."

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Architecture in Helsinki

Heart It Races

(Polyvinyl)

Architecture in Helsinki would be a waste of cocaine. No other band so perfectly captures the pace of our ADHD generation. Pick them out of this hyperspeed era and place them in another, they'd no doubt be labeled as fickle and indecisive. Their brand of indie pop is childlike and giddy, but would fall flat were it not for the impatience bubbling under each song. Likewise, their genre-hopping would seem contrived were it not for the hopped-up vibe of each number. Here, on their first release since the acclaimed In Case We Die, the Australian octet offers five versions of the same song. In this case, it's the single ("Heart It Races") from their forthcoming album, Places Like This. The band's own version of the song makes use of Caribbean rhythms and ultra-compressed drums with tribal vocals that often flow into ethereal territory. It's followed by a DJ Rupture remix, which, appropriately, features guest vocals by Trinidadian vocalist Mr. Lee G. Yacht's remix throws the number onto the dance floor with more blips and polyrhythmic insanity, but the most pleasant surprise is the closing number, a sunny cover version of the song by Dr. Dog. Like a regular AiH album, it can induce some dizziness; it starts and is finished in less than a flash. But no band has this much fun bouncing off the walls. BRIAN J. BARR

Architecture in Helsinki play Neumo's, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467, www.neumos.com. $15. All ages. 8 p.m. Wed., June 13.

Listen to a sample of Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart It Races."

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Keren Ann

Keren Ann

(Blue Note)

How anyone could not fall for Keren Ann is beyond me; she's charmingly humble, and, so far, she's ever so confident in her Feistian approach to bare-bones songwriting. Her third stateside release, Keren Ann, is a slight departure from her stark offerings of the past. She's still wispy in a Hope Sandoval sort of way, but she's obviously conscious about not making the same old record, year in and year out. What's immediately noticeable is the blurring of folk and jazz styles, much more so than in the past. She even throws a few electronics and electric guitars into the mix, which provides some depth to the tunes, as well as a few psychedelic sounds here and there. OK, so the subject matter isn't the most uplifting—mostly, this is a collection of gut-wrenching love songs, culminating with one of the album's best—"Liberty," an almost dreamlike piano tune that is cryptic and haunting, repetitive and serenading. You might initially be drawn to Keren Ann for its introspection and genuineness; you'll keep listening because it's mesmerizing. MICHAEL D. AYERS

Keren Ann plays the Triple Door, 216 Union Street, 838-4333, www.tripledoor.net. $15 adv./ $18 DOS. 7:30 p.m. Tues., June 12.

 
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