By Clayton Kelley
Artist: Moonface and Siinai
Album: My Best Human Face
Release Date: June 3, 2016
Sometimes, the most complex situations in life have simple and natural solutions that have always been right in front of your face the entire time. More often than not, people tend to fall prey to overthinking, causing a series of false events that were not even present in the first place. Focusing too much on reduction methods tends to have this same effect. This phenomenon is much like saying “ASAP” to someone who is not aware of what the acronym stands for, and then having to waste even more time by explaining to them, it means “as soon as possible.” Such is the case with Moonface’s second LP, My Best Human Face, a transparent album tied together with both hypnotic intrigue and dull repetition.
In an existential moment of desperation, Spencer Krug, Canadian songwriter, returns as his Moonface guise. Backed up by Finnish instrumentalists, Siinai, Krug tries in a frustratingly tangled attempt to construct an album with a fuller and enriched sound. My Best Human Face is a far cry from the stripped emotions found on his previous efforts. It’s ironic because here is a record that has the potential to be honest, but gets lost in its mass production. Displaying themes such as identity confusion, self-loathing and fragmented nostalgia, My Best Human Face is an album that still manages to isolate itself from an audience that begs connection.
“While some of the content might be dark or sad, the memories of making these songs brings gladness and gratitude, and it’s their construction, not deconstruction that I want to celebrate now,” Krug said in an interview with Pitchfork.
Krug’s layered imagery is somewhat present in certain tracks on this album, particularly in its atmospheric opener, “The Night Club Artiste.” Opening with light guitar distortion and buzzing 80s synth, it is a track which illustrates the feeling of beautiful anxiety in a loud and crowded club. Like many other tunes on this album, the track clocks in at nearly six minutes long.
As a matter of fact, all but one song on this LP is over five minutes, making one wonder if that was even necessary. “Risto’s Riff”, which is like A Flock of Seagulls colliding with the amped up energy of the likes of Arcade Fire and Two Door Cinema Club, is the shortest and most promising track on this record. It is the heaviest tune on this album, and is one of the few that utilizes the full instrumentation brought on by Siinai in a positive way. With a simple pounding bass line and rugged guitar effects, one can’t help but want to sing along to the hilariously distinctive shouts of “at least I’m not a photographer.”
After what seems like a start full of hopeful prosperity, tracks such as “Them Call Themselves Old Punks” and “Ugly Flower Pretty Vase” solidified my misguided feelings on this record. With lyrical content such as “there’s nothing punk about that” or “the circle goes on and on,” the balancing act between cynical sarcasm and blatant honesty tends to fall very flat. Although Krug has a very distinctive voice full of arousing self-annihilation, his lack of range that is backed up by a band that tends to draw out false emotion doesn’t give it justice. For example, “City Wrecker” is a complete re-make of an earlier song of the same name. The first take of this song did wonders conveying the somber undertones of Montreal on a cold and endless winter night. Unfortunately, it gets lost in its additional production. Bringing in hints of a cloud-nine electronic sound and a subtle improvised funky bass groove, the message of winter, nostalgia dreams becomes tainted. It is a constant reminder to the listener that sometimes, less is more.
The penultimate track, “Prairie Boy” is a cosmic song full of tease. Building from a euphoric guitar riff and a longing melody from Krug, this dream-like tune feels like it is heading somewhere great. Alas, this is cut short in an abrupt halt much similar to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” by The Beatles. I get what the folks from Siinai were trying to do; but this song was way too consistent to achieve this effect. Had there been just a few more interesting shifts in dynamics on the buildup to this cut-off, it would have been great.
The journey of self-identity comes full circle for Krug in its slow-moving 7-minute finale. “For I have tried to be a free spirit, but I just can’t.” These lyrics from My Best Human Face’s closing track, “The Queen of Darkness and Light” is almost a meta critique of the essence of this entire album. There isn’t any question that each of Krug’s songs on here have a story to tell, but the attempt is shadowed by illusions of simplicity. The layered emotions that are slightly present tend to get obscured by ignoring the ebb and flow of naturality.