The third album from Montreal twosome Handsome Furs, Sound Kapital, comes across almost as a rebuttal to those who thought that they weren’t serious. It’s all hard angles and edges; there are no whispers, very few soft moments, and only a hint of humorous angst.
The music itself is actually quite in line with the trajectory the previous two albums laid out. The point has been made over and over again that this is the side project of Wolf Parade front man Dan Boeckner and since the “hiatus” of Wolf Parade, this so-called side project can now find its own path. Perhaps I am in the minority, but I have always seen the two bands as quite separate entities. Handsome Furs has always seemed like the red-headed step child of Wolf Parade, the one that likes electronic music way too much. True, the vocals of Dan are way too unique to say that these projects have nothing in common. But it is clear that the vision for Handsome Furs was always specific, and perhaps much darker.
To briefly outline this trajectory I spoke of, I will say this: Plague Park, the band’s debut, was a dark, sometimes haunting but always fascinating dip into what appeared to be a disturbed psyche. The opening song “What We Had” is undoubtedly one of my favorites the band has ever written. The sophomore album, Face Control, was a livelier jaunt but the electronic element was more pronounced. This was clearly the precursor to what Sound Kapital would be. You can tell from the first track, “When I Get Back,” with the thumping bass that the production levels have doubled. “What About Us” sounds suspiciously like a goth-disco track from some B-side of The Cure. The decision to record fully on keyboards, with the help of drum machines and synthesizers, was clearly a factor that determined the tone of the album. While tracks like “Memories of the Future” seem a bit schizophrenic, the general sense one gets is of claustrophobia. “Damage” has a much more pounding, harder edge than previous songs on previous records, and “Bury Me Standing, while also harder edged has a pop-tinged feeling to it.
Despite this comparison, they are still better than the scores of bands that are doing something similar. While, as stated, the music is dark and edgy, it also manages to achieve the balance of accessibility and radio-friendliness. This record just doesn’t seem to connect personally as much as the others did. While it is claustrophobic at some points, that is countered by a distance that is hard to breach.