Arts, Music, Review

Wolf Parade’s ‘Thin Mind’ Is Succinct Yet Sublime

Some albums feel as though they take an eternity to listen to. The songs on them are uninspired, underwritten, and overall unimpressive. Sometimes, self-indulgent instrumentals are thrown in as interludes to mask the lack of flow throughout the tracklist. Other times, choruses are lackluster and forgettable, repeat on and on into oblivion, and annoyingly fade to silence much later than they should have. By the time the curtain falls at the end of the record, you’ve already left the theater and had enough of the snoozefest. 

Wolf Parade’s latest album, Thin Mind, on the other hand, feels quick yet satisfying, like a shot of Jäger in the heart of winter. It’s what indie rock music should aspire to, plain and simple: snappy guitar riffs, honest lyrics, and unapologetic personality. What makes the Canadian band special is that its lyrics are meaningful without being pedantic and thoughtful without being pseudo-intellectual. For all of the sharp commentary on the album, it is nestled among the same relatable musings on life that we expect from our favorite rock songs. 

One of these simple yet powerful lines is found in the chorus of the first song “Under Glass,” which has singer and guitarist Dan Boeckner hopelessly repeating the line “Nobody knows what they want” before singing “anymore.” It’s as if the band is suggesting that people were simpler and more authentic in the “good old days,” however long ago that was. 

Ideas of regret and longing for a halcyon past are found on a larger scale in the song “Forest Green,” where Boeckner seemingly expresses contempt at the current political landscape and its failure to deal with the climate crisis. Boeckner sums up the tragic history of European imperialism and the current state of the climate emergency all in a few clever lines, singing, “We got the sea and the sand / We got colonial days on stolen land, stolen land / Stolen land / Farewell to Forest Green / No more oasis in the Anthropocene.” It is further evidence of Wolf Parade’s ability to be impactful yet succinct in its songwriting. 

To focus on just the songwriting chops of Wolf Parade, however, would be a disservice to the infectious instrumentals that anchor the project. Its guitar riffs and driving percussion are as catchy as the ones found on The Strokes’ or The Arctic Monkeys’ albums. Songs like “Out of Control” and “The Static Age” feature energetic guitar playing from Boeckner and loud-soft verse-chorus combinations that may pay homage to masters of sound dynamics such as the Pixies and Nirvana. “The Static Age” runs surprisingly seamlessly into “As Kind As You Can,” a heartfelt piano ballad.

Dan Boeckner is not the only singer on the album—the other principal singer-songwriter is keyboardist Spencer Krug. Both have voices that are resolute and firm, similar to the baritone style of Beck and The National singer Matt Berninger.

One of the best songs on the album, “Julia Take Your Man Home,” was written and sung by Krug. It features the scathing wit of a Smiths song combined with the urgent, pulsing drums and guitar of a Killers track. Krug quips, “When I asked him if he needed to go / Home / He said, ‘The beating heart of a lonely man is / Nothing but an unheard decrescendo.’” The remark is tragic in its dismal outlook yet almost comical in its melodrama. 

In a conservation with Apple Music, Klug said, “The song’s a bit of a singer-songwriter sleight of hand—sort of an apology to Julia, through these kind of tongue-in-cheek chapters of bullshit behavior, and then asking for forgiveness.” The song itself is like any other great rock song in that it tells a story of everyday life that captures the imagination. 

Wolf Parade reaches a happy medium of artistry and entertainment on this album that is hard to find. Too much pretense and the album won’t sell. Too much commercialization and the critics won’t bite. Thin Mind sees a band in its prime doing what it does best: crafting indie rock tunes that reflect its members’ own personal experiences as well as some of their shared core principles. 

On the second to last track, “Wandering Son,”—according to Boeckner his most personal song on the album—he wistfully sings, “Wandering son / Dissolved on the map I know / What are you running from? / Always moving on / Never returning home.” Wherever Boeckner and Krug end up going, their fans will never be far behind, waiting for another output of brilliant indie rock genius. 

Featured Image by Sub Pop

January 27, 2020