In less than five minutes, “Silver Moons”—the opener from Sunset Rubdown’s fourth album, Dragonslayer—moves through gentle exposition, a bell-driven march, and a gorgeous bridge composed of only voice and piano, before finishing with high harmonies floating atop a squall of feedback. It isn’t a song so much as a journey, and as with the rest of Dragonslayer, its epic ambitions are fulfilled. Frontman Spencer Krug—who’s also integral to Canadian indie acts Wolf Parade and Swan Lake—has crafted a record more complicated and accessible than any he’s done before, with eight songs, but dozens of discrete musical ideas. Gone, for the most part, are the experiments in atonality that marked previous outings, particularly 2007’s Random Spirit Lover. In their stead are gorgeous melodies and intricate song structures that demand multiple listens to even begin to comprehend.
Krug has always treated his oeuvre as malleable. New songs serve as sequels to old ones, and thematic elements run through and across his various discographies. One song on Dragonslayer, “Paper Lace,” was first recorded as a winsome bit of acoustic folk by Swan Lake, complete with backing vocals by Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. Sunset Rubdown’s take is different: It’s propelled by a guitar that sounds like steel drums, and it eventually peaks with some intriguing counterpoint between a keyboard and one of the album’s finest guitar solos. Most bands couldn’t write a song as good as “Paper Lace.” Krug did it twice.