Sunset Rubdown: Shut Up, I Am Dreaming (Absolutely Kosher Records)

sunset.jpgFew Americans will ever be in an It Band. There are only about twenty a year, and with the diaspora of bassists from the Indie world (not to mention the plethora of brother-and-sister acts), the openings for a Young Turk nowadays are awfully slim. If a young artistic type wants to make headway nowadays, he'd be better advised to learn the ins and outs of The Sims than involve himself with anything in this world.

And that is why it's staggering to find a young talent who was not only a member of last year's It Band extraordinaire, Wolf Parade, but also this year's Rookie of the Year, this time with his solo project, Sunset Rubdown. The last time someone did anything like that, his name was Bo Jackson and he was doing commercials for Nike. (And don't worry, Wolf Parade fans; like Bo, Krug claims he's a two-sport guy. So, let's just pray that his pelvis stays whole.)

Spencer Krug is a songwriter and a singer for Wolf Parade, but here on Shut Up, I Am Dreaming he is mastermind and moving force. And that usually is a formula for failure because even the best songwriters need to be kept in check by a group whose members have equal standing (ahem, Sting).

Instead, Krug has taken that freedom and focused it on a project that is part bedroom pop, a la Brian Wilson, but also part glam pop, a la David Bowie. There is Barnum to be found here as well: The whole record is a tragedy, a beautiful one, recorded under the Big Top that is as appealing to a disaffected 12-year-old as it would be to a disgruntled 32-year-old. It's the kind of thing Tim Burton used to be good at before he remade Planet of the Apes.

The whole album is as modest as a child making faces in front of a mirror. Tragic faces, mind you, but playful ones nonetheless. Krug can blankly state, "You are a wrecking ball / Before the building fell / And every lightning rod / Has got to watch the storm cloud come" on "Us Moments in Between" (which possibly will be your favorite song of the year) and then seconds later, dryly wonder, "I've heard of creatures / Who eat their babies / And I wonder if they stop / To think about the taste."

And with that voice of his -- that lilting, primal croon, like off an Indian reservation -- he directs this circus of gravestones with aplomb. And somehow, without being bombastic, does so with the same playfulness and sense of wonder that a Barnum or three-ring circus barker would in his own act. Which in Spencer's case would probably be a dead trapezist. – John Flowers


Mr. Flowers is a man with a few letters - from his work at Time Magazine to his very dedicated dedication to pursuing his literary pursuits on his very serious blog.