Today Wolf Parade releases their third album, titled Expo 86 after the famous Vancouver, BC World’s Fair. My previous exposure to the band has only been by proxy, via singer/keyboardist Spencer Krug’s work with Sunset Rubdown. What I lack in perspective though, I hope to make up for in voracity: this album is awesome.
One of the coolest things about Expo 86 is that it has a really unifying sound across all the tracks. By no means is this to suggest they all “sound the same”, but instead that they’re all uniquely crafted musical experiences, just cut from the same cloth. The quality of tracks is consistently above average, but after a battery of listens, I’ve identified a few standout songs.
Early in the record, the first two tracks consecutively improve until the third one, which puts them to shame. ‘What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Has to Go This Way)‘ is rife with quick one-shot guitar solos and fantastic bridge, all layered upon a really powerful synth/percussion backing that made this one noteable; past that, the lyrics made me chuckle, as well as ponder at their meaning:
I wonder if all the beaches
in all your holiday towns
will turn to giant shining earrings against the cheek of the sea
when finally this supernova goes down
I sleep all night with the light on
and dream about the sun
Maybe because of the light
Maybe because of the sun
I got a friend who’s a genius
nobody listens to him
Some really cool imagery in there. Following that is ‘Little Golden Age’, an interesting intellectual tussle with nostalgia, and ‘In the Direction of the Moon’, which is a longer song, slower in tempo, and is perfectly placed in the song list to calm things down a little (not to mention inserting a little lupine-based imagery).
After it is maybe my favorite song on the entire album, and the reason I looked into this album in the first place. ‘Ghost Pressure‘ was released in the lead-up to the release, and remains the strongest among the lot, in my opinion. Along with ‘Pobody’s Nerfect’, which follows it, you have the high point of Expo 86.
The constant repetition of the refrain, with a slight variation in the melody each time, adds a great deal of texture to the song, and the replacement of “little vision” with “ghost pressure” at the end, layered over the original refrain seals the deal. It’s a really interesting sound, perfectly balanced with the synth, that showcases Wolf Parade firing on all cylinders.
My love of ‘Ghost Pressure’ should by no means suggest that the rest of the songs are not great in their own right. ‘Oh You, Old Thing’ is a surprisingly heartfelt addition that momentarily morphs to a dance beat midway through before seamlessly pulling back to the original chord progression. Pair that with the anthemic ‘Yulia’, and you have a perfect sendoff for the manic closing track ‘Cave-O-Sapien’.
From the get-go, this album finds its footing and never looks back. Insightful without being overbearing, Expo 86 is a lot of fun.