Through the course of its previous two albums—the first one being, for the most part, a Spencer Krug solo album—Sunset Rubdown has successfully altered its sound with every release. The same holds true with the group’s third album, Dragonslayer, an album that while still maintaining that precociously exciting music, sounds nothing like its previous effort, Random Spirit Lover. And in more ways than one, this is not a bad thing because it showcases a growing and proven band, just beginning to spread its wings.
The exciting ending is a thrilling experiment in every possible way. The penultimate steamer, “Nightingale/December Song” is just that, a variety of pounding tom drums and stomping pianos that precede the glory of the closer. As Krug sings, “We all burn in different ways. You are a fast explosion and I’m the embers,” the music chugs away without ever losing a step. Opening with a piano that recites the melody that will be the song’s prevailing theme, “Dragon’s Lair” is a shining piece of beauty disguised in eccentric singing, dooming, drowning chords and stampeding horses of guitars and drums. An amazing creationist at heart, Krug delivers one of his finest songs with the music’s precise and calculated feel.
The album’s eight songs stand out like sore thumbs in comparison to the overall sequencing on Random Spirit Lover. Whereas that album’s songs were purposely positioned into and around each other—each careening into the next and flowing from the last one’s stream—the songs on Dragonslayer are independent entities with a heart and soul of their own. The album’s majestic feel can be deeply rooted in “Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!”. Shimmering guitars and a playful keyboard line depict the story of a searching soul in the midst of the moon, stars and animals all around him. Growing old and willing to accept it sounds like a sad tale but told in this manner, with blissful music to pair it with, you can’t lose.
We’ve all been familiar with “Idiot Heart” for quite some time now, especially when it was made available on Daytrotter as a free download. But to be able to hear it in a proper setting, dolled up and finished, is a special gift. The nervy guitar kicks everything into high gear and then the thriving drums appear, and from here on out, it’s a frenetic and electrifying climax to shout, “and you know your heart.”
Krug has kept himself quite busy since he first started making music but his craft never suffers because of it. Instead, he’s chosen to take the route many others should follow, in playing, performing and rehearsing as much as possible. And the results are in his music’s terrific results. There’s the delayed radiance of “Paper Lace” and the album’s opening synths of “Silver Moons.” Both are assured with a confident demeanor that is prominent on every single song. Krug and his bandmates sing in bright harmonies, the music’s ability to switch out dynamics is unmatched and all around him, the atmospherics, tempo changes, and key shifts are unmistakably brilliant.
Would it be entirely wrong if I came right out and remarked Krug as the musical genius he truly is? I don’t know about you, but besides the other bands he is in, there are very few, if any, that sound anything like Sunset Rubdown. And truth be told, he knows exactly what he is doing and delivers it in a masterful way. That’s what’s so great about Dragonslayer, it’s another astounding album from a great band and one that we should get much, much more music from for many years to come.
“Idiot Heart” by Sunset Rubdown