Give Up The Roast is a column that collides delicious caffeine with auditory revelry a la a bi-monthly coffee and album pairing—the perfect combination for perking you up during that midday slump. Here, columnist Shannon Shreibak investigates all of the notes, from fruit rinds and spices to perfect fifths smothered in grinding distortion. So come on all you coffee shop novelists, DIY freaks, and connoisseurs of fine taste—keep your mind here in the GUTR and catch a buzz with us.
Living in a media landscape that shamelessly exploits nostalgia for gain, it’s near-impossible not to grow cynical amidst the rash of cash-grab reunion tours, wallet draining box sets, and glut Urban Outfitters “curated vintage” t-shirts emblazoned with the cotton crunched likenesses of our musical heroes. Memories are the new currency, and we’re all indebted to the culture of our pasts.
One reunion announcement that I greeted with an open heart (and wallet), though, is Wolf Parade. The Canadian proto-pop rockers recently announced the end of their indefinite hiatus, breaking through the static of navel-gazing throwback tours. While I’m eagerly awaiting WF to announce a return to Chicago, I’m biding my time by revisiting their 2005 debut, “Apologies To The Queen Mary” and, of course, sipping on some caffeinated libations.
BEHIND THE CURTAIN (BACKGROUND)
“Apologies To The Queen Mary” is one of those albums that, theoretically, should not have become an enduring work in the indie rock canon. The album isn’t musically groundbreaking or lyrically earth shattering, but it is a triumph of partnership between two auteur frontmen: Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner. Krug relies on complex chamber rock stylings and cryptic lyricisms; Boeckner serves as a stylistic foil choogling full steam ahead with grim Springsteen swagger and boot stomping rock riffs—the confluence of these two masterminds is the real triumph of “Apologies.”
BRASS TACKS (THE COFFEE)
Wolf Parade’s sound orbits around the juxtaposition between its two distinct vocalists—Dan Boeckner with his craggy wails and Spencer Krug’s dynamic hiccoughs. Not unlike Madcap Coffee’s Lake Effect, Wolf Parade is a polarizing experimentation of taste, texture and metaphor.
Stationed in Grand Rapids, Madcap Coffee has maintained an unwavering commitment to the specialty coffee niche long before the artisanal food and goods trend hit. Focused on building strong relationships with farms spindling across the globe, Madcap’s eclectic inventory is a tour de force offering brews for every palate and wanderlusty coffee freak.
Mirroring the complexities and contradictions of Wolf Parade’s catalog, Madcap’s Lake Effect reigns as one of the most intriguing offerings on shelves today. Comprised of beans hailing from Kathakwa, Kenya (one-half); Yukro, Ethiopia (one-quarter); and Reko, Ethiopia (one-quarter); the brew pairs the most complex African coffees to create a harmonious sip of juicy and spicy notes.
WHITE NOISE (THE MUSIC)
Informed by the sappy sucker sound of Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock (who produced a good hunk of the album), Wolf Parade’s debut LP poises on a bedlam of slick synth sounds, finger-tangling keyboards, frenetic drum fills and dual vocals. With near-perfect alternation between Krug and Boeckner-led cuts, the immediacy and themes of “Apologies” become even more novel FINISH
The album kicks off with “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son,” in which Krug yelps through romantic confessions over drummer Arlen Thompson’s unflappable snare jabs. Every syllable Krug spits from his silver-threaded pipes shoulders a sense of urgency that even his own voice can barely support, crushing every lyric beneath his own self-awareness. The track is followed by Boeckner’s grand entrance, an bare-boned lamentation on technology’s tightening grip on society titled “Modern World.”
Krug’s “Grounds For Divorce” explores the demise of both relationship and self-worth as he whimpers, “there’s a hole in my neighborhood / down which of late I cannot help but fall.” Boeckner’s “Same Ghost Every Night” chomps through six minutes with indulgent arpeggios and meditations on the imminence of death.
“Shine A Light,” world-weary and harmony-dense, punches up the mood and continues forth with the idealistic glint of “I’ll Believe In Anything.” Crackling with cryptic modernity-fearing nuggets and Krug’s Ritalin-starved delivery, Wolf Parade’s takes on the alienated teen dream love song is home to some of the groups strongest lyrics:
“if I could take the fire out from the water / I’d share a life and you’d share a life / if I could take the fire out from the water / I’d take you where nobody knows you / and nobody gives a damn”
The album closes with Boeckner’s pomp ‘n play ballad “This Heart’s On Fire,” laid on a bed of Springsteen guitar chug and lyrical knife twists (“I am my mother’s hen / and left the body in the bed all day / we don’t know what to do”). Penned about the death of his mother, Boeckner’s sorrowful ballad digs its heels into hapless triumph as he repeatedly refrains “it’s getting better all the time,” never sure if he actually believes it.
While “Apologies” didn’t disrupt the continuum of modern music or win any trophies, it’s an album that bookends the crisis of love, loss and spirit that plagues us all. Framed as a debut, but enduring as a homily, “Apologies To Queen Mary” is the debut that no one was expecting and everyone needed from a gang of young and wild-eyed malcontents with so much more to say.
Column by Shannon Shreibak. Go forth and be loud with her on Twitter @ShannonShreibak.