Album Review: Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On

Nashville – Spencer Krug has always been a shape-shifter. Each of the many albums he’s been a part of reveals another one of Krug’s talents. His Moonface EPs Marimba And Shit-Drums and Organ Music Not Vibraphone are made with instruments true to their titles and give a taste for Krug’s diverse ambitions. Piano is the latest ability Krug has to showcase on his newest Moonface album, Julia With Blue Jeans On, out via JagJaguwar. It’s comprised only of Krug’s distinctive voice and a grand piano, and it’s startlingly different than anything he’s produced under the Moonface moniker or with his many other bands (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes, Fifths of Seven). The uniformity of style and production makes this album feel like a concept album, one focused on Julia. What is ultimately revealed though is a deeply introspective album about Krug’s battles with himself.

On first listen, Julia With Blue Jeans On comes across as both sweet and uncomfortable. The album draws upon the ecstasy of newfound love. It’s the opposite of his previous Moonface full-length, With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery, which dealt with the violent emotions of a tough breakup. Krug’s reverberating voice and piano sound as though they were recorded in a towering church, giving another dimension to worshipful lyrics such as those off the title track: “I’d say the only word worth singing is her name. The only word worth singing is not ‘God.’ It’s you, ‘Julia,’ as beautiful and simple as the sun.”

Such direct expression is uncharacteristic of Krug, who in his past work delved into huge metaphors to send the brain reeling. Julia’s lyrics, contrarily, reflect the stark winters of Helsinki, the home Krug adopted a few years ago. The piano and voice sound solitary. It’s an odd production choice for an album ostensibly about finding love. But the lonely, churchlike production fits Krug’s unusual expressions of love.

Eerie minor chord progressions and riffs accompany proposals like, “Can I have this dance? Cause baby we both know we are both crazy” (“November 2011”). Don’t know about Julia, but most women don’t take kindly to being called crazy. Again and again, Krug reveals his affection with questionable word choices. A sense of languid gratefulness comes across in “Dreamy Summer” when he muses, “There’s no reason I should feel like dying. But you’re the reason I’m here and alive either way.” What ultimately comes across is that Krug isn’t in the relationship so much for Julia as he is in it to have his own tribulations pacified by Julia.

The album tells as much of Krug’s supposed love for Julia as it does about his own demons. The next psychological thriller movie might be wise to pick it up. It’s hard not to compare Donnie Darko’s theme song, “Mad World” to the minor key tremolos in “Dreamy Summer.” The whole album conveys that same dark, earnest beauty.

Julia With Blue Jeans On might be Krug’s most personal album to date. Even though the songs aren’t the kind to get stuck in your head (“Love The House You’re In” might be the exception), it’s hard to deny the beauty of these raw, pared down songs.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline McDonald

My first memory is of singing Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” quietly to myself during preschool naptime. Perhaps it’s because I’m from Nashville where an instrument lives in every home, but music has gripped me for as long as I can remember.

After dabbling in many parts of the music industry—recording studios, PR, management, labels, publishing—I’m expanding into music journalism because I’m yet to find anything more rewarding that finding and sharing new music.

A longtime sucker for girls with guitars, my musical taste unabashedly follows the songwriting lineage of Dolly Parton and includes Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch, and Neko Case. But not to pigeonhole myself, my music love is big love that stretches from R.L. Burnside to Animal Collective to Lord Huron.

I’ve recently moved home to Nashville after living in Boston and Big Sur for several years. I’d forgotten how music pours onto the streets ten hours a day, seven days a week. I’m honored to share the creative explosion happening here. If your band is in the area or of the area, please reach out!
Caroline McDonald

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