Since January 2010, Spencer Krug has used Moonface as a venue for home-recorded instrumental and conceptual experimentation, expanding the ideas he developed collaboratively with Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown. Releases under this moniker have come quickly, each distinct from the other. The Dreamland EP and Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped were conceptual excursions merging instrumental and thematic fixations. After moving from Montreal to Helsinki, Krug teamed up with the Finnish band Siinai to create a lush rock record–2012’s Heartbreaking Bravery–driven by the dark despair of a breakup. Staying in Helsinki, Krug set off on yet another creative departure, driven by a rediscovery of love and a reconsideration of the Moonface persona he’d created for himself. The quietly stunning Julia with Blue Jeans On is the fourth Moonface release, bringing a degree of intimacy and self-reflection unlike anything Krug has produced to date.
There are only two sonic elements on Julia: Spencer Krug’s voice and his piano. Richly recorded, they interact seamlessly with one another. On the opening track “Barbarian,” the piano unfolds with the hypnotic energy of Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert, Krug’s right hand doubling his vocal melody. On the closing track “Your Chariot Awaits,” Krug’s voice recedes after a minute as the piano swells for an extended showcase with modern classical undertones. After nearly a decade, across a number of guises, we are well-acquainted with Krug’s inimitable town-crier vocals; on Julia, we are introduced to a facet of his musical skill that feels conservatory-trained. This is Krug as singer-songwriter, moving beyond star poses to a vision that is at once more elegant and comfortable.
Or, in Krug’s own language, on “Barbarian II”: “I have chewed through my beautiful narrative.” Much of Julia is taken with this chewing. “Love the House You’re In” opens by masquerading as self-pity, with a statement that reads like a press release from someone who’s given up. “I regretfully withdraw my offer to try and improve myself,” Krug gently sings, establishing a self-reflexive foundation upon which he builds the album’s most universal, humanistic sentiment, and which he delivers via its most soaring melody.
Purposeful self-evaluation is one tactic for reinvention, but as Krug illustrates on Julia’s title track, everyday occurrences can prove transformative as well. The sight of a woman, clad in denim, briefly visible at the bottom of a staircase, he learns, is capable of “obliterating everything I’ve ever written down.” “Julia” is an ode in the classical sense, pivoting around the beauty inherent in the most simple, taken-for-granted sights. Krug acknowledges this, opening the song by admitting that “it’s a madman’s game, making the commonplace unreal.” What he leaves out in this admission, however, is the key to the countless charms of Julia with Blue Jeans On: by expertly playing this ridiculous game, he can erase the madness that spawned it.