For how storied and how championed this band has been for a decade and a half as part of indie rock’s very elite, it seems jilting in a way that it’s only their fifth album we’re now getting in this year’s Thin Mind. The album comes from the band’s already standing record label, Sub Pop, as well as its former producer, John Goodmanson. Nonetheless, Thin Mind chimes forth with an undeniable freshness and terseness, the product of focused purposefulness in the songwriting, as to make it notable.
Before I get into diagramming all of the songs and the extent to which if at all they mark a drastic shift from their WP predecessors, it must be mentioned that this album, while sounding great and delivered with genuine vocals, is an absolute masterpiece in sequencing. To be perfectly honest, when I heard that there was a new Wolf Parade album out I made the decision immediately not to even listen to it, for entire exhaustion of this band’s mediocrity on albums 3 and 4, a mediocrity I chalk up mostly to their record label Sub Pop, which has been known to set their bands on rigorous tours and establish stringent, perhaps unrealistic release date deadlines.
Almost pleasingly, “Under Glass” is far from a fantastic, show-stopping number, and so ushers in Thin Mind with the necessary casualness for showcasing the album’s innards, and also, ironically, adhering to what was probably a lot of people’s opinion that this band is pumping out unremarkable indie rock at this point in its career. More than enough shock value, however, comes in tandem with “Julia Take Your Man Home,” a man who is “Carving shapes that look like di**s into the wood” (a behavioral anomaly explained perhaps in part by the later admission that “He keeps talking about New Jersey”). The song represents a variation in the band’s typical stylistic technique too, though, galloping along in almost Franz Ferdinand-like post-punk sangfroid, with those up-beat hat hits courted by a beautifully verbose synth part ushering in the song’s first verse.
I listened to this album and pertinently did not hear a bad song or get bored, though it may, understandably enough, have failed to take me to the heights of that white noise on “Dinner Bells”‘ second verse or the last third of “Language City,” with the two-chord piano outro. “Forest Green” seemed like solid psych-rock, making a somewhat thin impression when juxtaposed with the garish Spotify video I was force fed while listening. “The Static Age” pipes in beautifully with a tense, expert chord progression and some sublime synth work for one of the album’s best choruses, but “As Kind as You Can” is on an island of its own, entirely, winning its way into my heart initially with a bona fide piano intro and nary letting up its proud velocity from there. The creeps along slowly and deliberately, with esoteric, but clear lyrics: “The words written on the back of the commissioner’s hand”; “They always said a big wedding wasn’t needed”; et. al. For the chorus, we dive into a dramatic, but still subtle, key change and more conversation from that shrill synth they seem to lean on throughout this album, to laudable results surely. The vocals in the second verse, then, wield this trippy, baritone echo element in their background which is so sonically voluminous that I thought it was actually a voice coming on on the library PA behind me. Amidst it all, the song’s primary statement stands tall and sovereign: “Be as kind as you can / And forever become / What you can’t understand”. Ya know, I’d always kind of slotted Wolf Parade as an entity in my life that wouldn’t really pi** me off too bad if they got a little preachy on me. It certainly seems that I was on to something.