Review Summary: slow-jams, but not really. Heartbreaking Bravery
is billed as something entirely new and yet entirely defined by the old. It’s a prog-indie genre kick starter with Spencer Krug- already a dragon-slaying, expressionistic songwriter- putting his guitar down a tone and hiring an instrumental Finnish band to create mood music. Depending on how you look at it, the definition spans from boring to mad, and assumes some sort of batshi
t crazy storytelling will be compartmentalised into the forty-five minutes of music. Moonface has always been an experimental project like this, one focused on what sounds can be made next and what they will do to a lyric. Even in listed titles like Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped
, Krug seems to suggest that music goes down no set path and that what styles you play in- hell, what instruments you play with- determine so much. Moonface is all about change, and this informs whatever genre homages Heartbreaking Bravery
is said to be playing: it’s prog, it’s indie rock, but it feels completely out of step with those genres and their place in history. Heartbreaking Bravery
is, above any of its billing, a dark, quite miserable piece of music. And once again, the Moonface project says that even as he plays with a hundred different styles, no music is made quite like Krug’s.
That stylistic formation fascinates Krug. With Siinai acting as his backdrop, Heartbreaking Bravery
becomes a record at odds with itself. The band place the record in a very progressive sphere, drawing their tricks of memorization like geeky ‘70s pastiches; “10,000 Scorpions” leads into “Faraway Lightning” as if lifted from the darker days of Peter Gabriel and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
, and seems to have a very direct effect on darkening the album and taking it to the place its lyrics place it in; the creepy, krautish atmosphere Siinai produce seems built to make the album a grand ol’ horror-flick. And at the same time, Krug seems able to turn a minimal track on its head, with “Headed for the Door” played out as an oddly unconventional post-rock track which swiftly collapses at its climax and washes into an epic monologue reading within its seven minutes. And yet what he and Siinai do here is arguably a contradiction; this album should, for all its wacky sound-scaping, be a huge, boisterous experience, but instead these frantic moments, the screeching guitar backdrops and high-wizard yelping of “Yesterday’s Fire,” seem created
for a sluggish, brooding record. Krug might be playing with a crazy amount of fire- at least symbolically, c'mon- but his moody self on Heartbreaking Bravery
just keeps floating on.
If anything, these genre landmarks are being restrained by Krug’s reflective songwriting; while the album seems to be pushed into a melodramatic corner in many ways, the prog-rock works more as a disguising plot-point for what becomes an album of slow jams and synth-y stoner rock. Whatever that may incorrectly describe, Heartbreaking Bravery
is in love with the pop song structure but not how it works in minutes; It can be raucous, but Heartbreaking Bravery
doesn’t seem affected by time, even at its briefest. “I’m Not The Phoenix Yet” is again a song working out its motion as it goes along, with a chugging riff playing around everything else going on. Krug uses atmosphere as more than just a method of induction, and so the song stays interested in its ambient backdrop even as the keyboards turn the track towards its freak-out. “Quickfire, I Tried,” a lyrical centrepiece for the album, doesn’t feel put upon by its swirling beginning; rather it seems Krug is patiently looking around, waiting to execute the unconventional pop music intended. The songs on Heartbreaking Bravery
seem to circle into existence, set in place but not marked in time. It’s fitting, then, that the album’s final moment is resoundingly slow and doesn’t give a thought to how to end.
Krug certainly plays with the traditions of prog and indie here; as graciously as the prog-rock appears, the lyrics feel spiritually akin with the rock he’s made before; self-defeating words like “I tried to be fun, / but by the time I was drunk, you were gone” have been seen in different forms before. But Heartbreaking Bravery
never for a second feels like it’s carrying a debt or a happy nostalgia for ‘70s geekery and the more recent, indie rock past. In spite of all Krug learns from his influence and creates with the help of a twinkling backing band, his album feels created in a vacuum, or maybe just a gloomy empty room. It ends up sounding in love with pop music and longer-form experimental music as well, but the mood captured, and the meditative speed it’s captured at, plunge Heartbreaking Bravery
into new depths. Krug, once again, wants nothing more than to move us into an entirely new place.