As a genre, indie rock isn’t known for its subtlety. Instead, it usually goes straight for the jugular in a desperate attempt to leave an impression and move a few units. A prime example of the approach is Wolf Parade’s 2005 debut album, Apologies to the Queen Mary, which was ferocious in its immediacy. A few years have passed since Apologies got the blood of scenesters across the world pumping and now the side projects are starting to emerge. Last year it was Spencer Krug’s Shut Up, I am Dreaming from his other band, Sunset Rubdown, and now it’s Dan Boeckner’s turn with Handsome Furs’ debut, Plague Park.
Comprised of Boeckner and fiancee Alexei Perry, Plague Park is certainly a very different beast than Boeckner’s usual wolf. Where Apologies rushed at listeners with its pedal to the floor, Plague Park opts for a more restrained, understated and, yes, even subtle approach. Building sparse frames out Boeckner’s simple guitar work, background synth atmospherics and understated drums, these songs are more concerned with nurturing a melancholy mood than taking over listeners’ heads.
This approach turns out to be both Plague Park’s greatest strength and weakness. On the one hand, the reserved nature of the recordings allows the songs’ emotive core to take precedence, resulting in some truly chilling moments. It’s just hard to remember when they occur because of how nondescript every song is. What this combination inevitably creates is an impressive album that’s entirely too easy to forget.