The moment is inevitable. No matter how much music you have access to, some days none of it seems to evoke the slightest bit of interest. Whether due to ignorance of what else is out there, some sort of music saturation, or just some passing mood, it makes no difference as the feeling is the same. Although, within this musical malaise there are always a select few albums that seem impervious to this feeling of indifference and provide just what is needed until the spell passes. For the better part of a year for me that album has been Plague Park by the Handsome Furs.
Download: Handsome Furs - "What We Had"
The album not only fills this listening void but it becomes the soundtrack to it. Not so much about reinvigorating you as it simply provides some musical accompaniment to the moment. Straight from the outset the tone is set as the opening track encapsulates all the album has to offer. It starts with a quick "no-frills" drum track as the guitar begins to firmly make its way to the front. The vocals appear, yearning and crackling, atop what has suddenly become a dense musical sound. All the while maintaining a sense of desolation as the opening lines to "What we Had" can attest to, "It's cold, a plain diamond. Nobody's here, just empty space."
The Handsome Furs consist of husband and wife, Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry. Of course, Boeckner is probably most well known for his other band Wolf Parade, but fans of the one will not necessarily make fans of the other. One of many differences is the Handsome Furs music is much more stripped down and simplistic in its approach. Its this beautiful simplicity that gives the album its undeniable mood but it also provides the biggest challenge on album and with the live show, to keep it interesting. With only a guitar and electronic drum machine to lead the way the show is surprisingly entertaining. The easy manner and rapport between the two on stage helps keep it so. The mood remains light even as the music seems of a darker nature. They do not take themselves too serious, allowing the music to do it for them. At one point Boeckner, in introducing a song about the small town he was from, jokes "my handle was faggot for awhile. Not by choice, but it seemed to stick."
They opened the show with two new songs and littered the set with new material throughout. The formula is much the same for the new material but while implanting a more upbeat tone. It does not seem to have that same sense of isolation but it is still every bit as engaging. The guitar sound is almost like a third person on stage. Like some lesson in precision every note seeks to draw some form of emotion from the listener. The music really never tries to be too much and that is what makes it work both on album and on stage. The themes and mood of the music loom heavy but the music is too catchy to bog things down, leaving the listener feeling light.
Download: Dri "You Know I Tried"
While on stage, Dri said a friend once described her music as "dance music for stoners." While this sentiment may not be false it certainly does not capture the whole of her music. Only having heard a few of her songs before the show, Dri turned out to be one of the more pleasant surprise performances in some time. Playing for an extremely meager crowd seemed of little matter to her and it proved a real mistake for those who decided to arrive late.
Dri, which seems to be taken from lead singer Adrianne's name, hails from Lawrence, Kansas and is backed by a bass player and a host of samples that cross several musical genres. There is a smooth subtlety which resides in all aspects of her music. From her breezy vocals to her use of samples which never seem to overtake the song with that one and only hook. Her samples contain hints of reggae, soul and 50's/60's style pop, to a more modern elctro approach.The music is dreamy and featherlike, particularly on the track that bares the album's name, "Smoke Rings." As a whole the album sounds like it was made by someone living in some beach locale rather than Kansas, but that makes little difference because the album works wherever people are feeling carefree.