Wed Sept 21, Paramount, 8 pm, $22.50 plus fees, all ages.
Thurs Sept 22, Crocodile,
9 pm, $10, 21+.
For better or for worse, music journalists are perpetually fascinated with the links between geography, time, and creativity. Whether it's Detroit in the '60s, Minneapolis in the '80s, or our fair town in the early '90s, there's a perpetual impulse to trace musical trends topographically. Thanks to the flashpoint ignited by the Arcade Fire, Montreal is the scene du jour, as recently declared by Spin and the New York Times, among others.
While such proclamations tend to cause scenesters to collectively roll their eyeballs and claim too much media attention can stunt the growth of a previously undisturbed community, the sudden spotlight can also unearth promising bands that might have remained obscure otherwise. This is certainly the case with Montreal's Wolf Parade, an intriguing quartet recently signed to Sub Pop Records via the endorsement of Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock.
Conceived in 2003 as a collaborative endeavor between guitarist/vocalist Dan Boeckner and keyboardist/vocalist Spencer Krug, Wolf Parade make minor-chord-driven, discordant chamber pop that has drawn justifiable comparisons to both Brock's band and their friends in the Arcade Fire. Thanks to mournful, raspy vocals, sweetly engaging, keyboard-driven melodies, and commanding percussion, the band conjure a comforting moroseness that could quickly earn them a broad audience among fans of dark-minded, off-kilter indie rock.
Apologies to the Queen Mary, the band's full-length debut for Sub Pop, is a slow-burning record—the kind that gradually imbeds itself in your internal jukebox. Working with a deftly mixed palette of somber, sorrowful tones and uplifting, nearly-optimistic harmonics, the 12 tracks tackle everything from discarded childhood ambitions ("You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son") and haunting memories of lost loves ("Same Ghost Every Night") to guardedly hopeful dreams ("I'll Believe in Anything").
Primarily recorded at Portland's Audible Alchemy studios, engineer Chris Chandler twiddled the knobs, but Brock himself played an active role in the album's overall feel. "Isaac was basically a producer," explains drummer Arlen Thompson chatting via cell outside his neighborhood bar. "He helped with framing the songs, working out ideas, and advising us on sounds. He played a relatively [strong] role in how the record came together."
Thompson initially met Boeckner, Krug, and "electronic manipulator" Hadji Bakara in Victoria, where he played in a "ton of hardcore and punk bands" and eventually became involved in the theater scene. "I did some improv music for theater projects and that's kind of where I met Hadji." For a variety of personal and academic reasons, the four eventually relocated to Montreal at various times and subsequently reconnected in the city's thriving arts community, a move that proved to be heartily inspiring. "In my opinion, it's one of the best cities in North America," says Thompson emphatically. "The [presence of] French culture is very different, so it's sort of it's own little bubble."
After recording a couple of self-released EPs, the band was introduced to Sub Pop by Brock, who was working as an A&R representative for the label at the time. "Dan's old band Atlas Strategic had toured with Modest Mouse and Ugly Casanova before, so they already had a friendship," explains Thompson. That led to the Sub Pop deal and shortly afterward, a groundswell of critical praise, including Canadian Time magazine declaring Apologies to the Queen Mary "one of Canada's most anticipated indie albums of the year."
Thompson is obviously aware of the privileges and pitfalls that go with being a resident of a trendy city and a peer group as widely heralded as Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse. "I guess Montreal is... whatever... the city right now, but really, a lot of these people are just our friends. We've played shows with the Arcade Fire to 20 kids in someone's front living room. No one wants to be a flash in the pan," he admits, "but we're just going to keep doing what we're doing and not pay too much attention to it. I think if you start taking that stuff too seriously, you end up burning out eventually."firstname.lastname@example.org