H8r @$$ reviews: Wolf Parade’s Expo 86

After our last foray into music criticism, commenter “JohnWall” inspired us to rename “Vox Beats.”

It feels like an eternity since Apologies to the Queen Mary came out all the way back in 2005, but after a sophomore album and a large array of side projects, Wolf Parade are back with Expo 86.

Recorded in late-February/early-March over a two and a half weeks, Expo 86 features a slightly darker, more rock-based sound that the group slips into like a glove. If you were at all hesitant about Wolf Parade’s first two album—or are completely unfamiliar with them—you should give Expo 86 a spin.

Heavy drums and chicka-chicka riffs open the album on “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain,” which quickly steers into guitar fills and synths bouncing off one another. The sound on this album is much more concentrated than Wolf Parade’s previous two albums, which were more yelpy, sparse, and jerky.

Band members’ numerous side projects—most notably keyboardist and vocalist Spencer Krug’s Sunset Rubdown and guitarist and vocalist Dan Boeckner’s Handsome Furs—have kept creative juices pumping, but surprisingly, this album is stylistically consistent from start to finish. With strong rhythms, foggy synths, and licks that don’t hold back, Expo 86 presents Wolf Parade as a more focused rock outfit.

The songs’ dynamics do not change drastically from one to another—a surprising trait for a group that employs two songwriters. This ends up being Expo 86‘s weakness. Few surprises from song to song create hardly any memorable moments on the album. Krug and Boeckner are certainly expressive, but emotional peaks for the listener just don’t rise high enough. Synth-heavy beats may inspire comparisons to Depeche Mode, but some tracks feign to a fault.

Despite moments of slowness, Expo 86 has got some great tracks. Now, instead of dismissing their next release—as I did in the past—I might even look forward to it.

Vox‘s Choices: “What Did My Lover Say (It Always Had To Go This Way),” “Cave-O-Sapien”

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