Album of the Week: Wolf Parade EP 4

On May 23, 2016

I was a 19-year-old college sophomore when I discovered Wolf Parade. It was January, and I have sense memories listening to “Shine a Light” while watching my breath float out of my mouth as I walked around my small town Wisconsin college campus, on my way to some winter session class. The album, Apologies to the Queen Mary, had been out for like four months, but this was before I discovered Pitchfork, so I distinctly remember reading an issue of Rolling Stone—that magazine will always be underappreciated for the effect it has on small town kids across America who like music-- that wrote enthusiastically about a group of Canadian “indie rockers” (I hardly knew what that meant, really) who had recorded an album in a boat, and I remember thinking, “ Wait, there are albums from a whole group of bands that I don’t know about coming out, and this one is good enough to get mentioned in Rolling Stone, I need this in my life immediately.”

I would venture its in the top five for albums I’ve listened to most in my life. I feel the off-kilter beat of “You Are a Runner” in my cellular structure. My vocal chords have never recovered from the amount of times I scream-yelled “I’ll Believe in Anything” in my 2002 Saturn SL-1. I know how long the fade out of “This Heart’s on Fire” is deep in my brain. I listened to “Shine a Light” so many times to make sure I knew all the lyrics I’m fairly certain I can detect a dropped beat in the drum line.

Which is to say, insofar as there is an audience for a “comeback” Wolf Parade EP, I am very much part of it.

Wolf Parade technically “went away” in 2011, but really, all that meant was that its wildly prolific members were doing something else for five years. Co-frontman Dan Boeckner—he of the Springsteen sloganeering on Wolf Parade songs—worked on Handsome Furs, Divine Fits and Operators. Spencer Krug, the other frontman, did his weirdo experimental shit with Moonface, Swan Lake, and Sunset Rubdown. It always seemed like Wolf Parade would be back; there was no public animosity, just maybe a begrudging acceptance that Wolf Parade is a bigger band than any side project either dude has going. So, their early 2016 announcement of a comeback—and a tour—felt as lowkey as the dudes in Wolf Parade. They set up social media accounts, announced the tour, and said they have new music coming.

That new music finally arrived last week, in the form of EP-4, aka the fourth self-titled album the band has released since it’s first in 2003. And, completely unsurprisingly, it sounds like 2006-2015 never happened, and all of life’s problems could be scored competently by a group of Canadians howling and bellowing over guitars and screechy organ lines. From the opening thrust of “Automatic”—to this day, no one in indie rock does opening notes better than Wolf Parade—to the closing controlled chaos of “Floating World,” this is as good as you have any right to expect.

The highlight is “C’est La Vie Way,” a Spencer Krug creation that rides off into a fractal heaven via it’s layered synth line. Complaining about a 4 song EP being too short is too dumb, but damn if this thing doesn’t leave you wanting. Here’s hoping there’s more new Wolf Parade music in the chamber, and this isn’t the only new dispatch we get as a result of the band’s reunion.

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Andrew Winistorfer

Andrew Winistorfer is Director of Music at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard and The Story of Willie Nelson. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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