By: Amanda McMillan
Nearly a decade ago, Wolf Parade announced that they would be taking an “indefinite hiatus.” This news came months after I had opted not to buy tickets to their show in Toronto as they were touring their third album Expo 86. Needless to say, I was very upset that I might have never been able to see Wolf Parade live. Seven years later, the hiatus was lifted and they released the highly anticipated but relatively mediocre album Cry, Cry, Cry. Funnily enough, I still haven’t seen them live.
When it was announced that they would be releasing an album in early 2020, I felt hopeful, despite forgetting about Cry, Cry, Cry. I still go back to their debut album Apologies to the Queen Mary often and would consider “I’ll Believe in Anything” one of the best rock songs of the early aughts. Wolf Parade is one of the few Canadian alt-rock bands that easily contented with the US and UK scene back then (along with fellow Montrealers Arcade Fire), and who still continue to make good music that is not only true to their own sound but seems to age like a fine wine. Luckily, with Thin Mind, they brought us something we can really sink our teeth into.
Off the top, “Under Glass” makes for a catchy intro to the album, with a screechy guitar lick and fast-paced drum beat lending itself smoothly to Spencer Krug’s distinctive voice. The chorus is a kind of jarring cacophony against the slickness of the verses, repeating “nobody knows what they want,” over and over again, feeling like an apt observation for our times.
Next, we have “Julia Take Your Man Home”, which evokes a sound reminiscent of early Interpol. The song introduces us to ‘Julia’s man’ who seems like a bit of a degenerate. He’s unpredictable and probably has some addiction issues. However, there is something intriguing and Bowie-esque about the lyrics: “He keeps talking about New Jersey/ and cocaine/ and some person he keeps saying is made of glass.” The whole song sounds like a story from Meet Me in the Bathroom - it’s messy and poetic.
The transition between the intensity of “The Static Age” and the piano intro to “As Kind as You Can” feels like catching your breath, as you sink into the slow roll of the song. But just as we’re getting comfy, the guitar gives us a little edge, not quite resolving how we expect it to. Sweet Wolf Parade, always keeping us on our toes!
As we reach the end of the album, “Against the Day” is a clear nod to the band’s 80s New Wave influence, with gritty synth, and spacey electronic drum fills. This might be the furthest they’ve pushed their sound into this direction, but it polishes off the record nicely, leaving us with something a little different to explore.
The 10-track album clocks in at 43 minutes (coincidentally their shortest album), but feels longer. Perhaps it’s just robust, with lots to uncover from track to track. This album seems to lean more heavily into a New Wave vibe, from the use of synth, the drumming patterns, guitar effects, and even the timbre of Krug’s vocals. There’s something mature about this album, it’s slick without being overly produced, and familiar in a way that’s inviting rather than boring.
Thin Mind is a step into what is hopefully a new decade of music from Wolf Parade, one that marks an evolution of their sound without sounding foreign or strange, and an album that fans can feel they’ve grown into. This album evokes more nostalgia for the early days of the band, giving us a reminder of why we listened in the first place, without sounding like we’ve heard this before. The band has certainly grown up, and so have we. But the more I listen to Thin Mind, the more I realize it’s nice to know all is not lost in getting older.