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July 2, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Indie album falls on thin foundation

Thin Mind

Sub Pop Records

Wolf Parade’s fifth album, “Thin Mind,” marks the group’s second project since 2017. Up to this point, the group has been successful in the indie rock scene, but, with the band now almost 20 years into its career, it is understandable that its creativity might have run out. This LP marks the beginning of that deterioration, showing that “Thin Mind,” and the band itself, is thin on new ideas. 

The album starts with “Under Glass,” a track that can be best described as an urgent banger. Lyrics like “Like science fiction/ We’re under the glass again/ And now I can’t remember/ How life was outside, on the outside” addresses concerns associated with technology use and how these devices have ultimately done more harm than good. The track also boasts simple drum beats and a groovy guitar riff that is reminiscent of legendary musician Elvis Costello. This, along with the mellow, jazzy tone of lead singer Dan Boeckner’s voice, serves as a promising start to the album. 

However, whatever hope is present during “Under Glass” fades away as the LP transitions to the next song, “Julia Take Your Man Home.” The lyrics of this track are set up like a short story in which the singer is asking someone for forgiveness for his less-than-ideal actions. Compared to its lyrical style, Boeckner’s execution does not hold up to its expected standard. Instead of the smooth, sultry nature of Boeckner’s voice in “Under Glass,” the vocals in “Julia Take Your Man Home” sound strained and disrupt the overall mood of the song. The bridge of “Under Glass” features an intricate guitar solo and synthesizers that add a personal touch to the track’s overall sound, but the use of a similar guitar solo in “Julia Take Your Man Home” is unexpected and overpowering and serves as an unwelcome distraction from the song’s other elements.

Throughout “Thin Mind,” Wolf Parade seems to stick with the lyrical theme of existential dread associated with modern technology. It focuses closely on the feeling of being out of touch with reality, for example, with lyrics like “You get a hollow heart, you get a hollow head/ You get to feel just like the living dead,” in “The Static Age.” However, the real feeling of dread is found unwelcome and is found in the album’s repetitive, stretched-out instrumentals and poor vocals. Boeckner attempts to show off a versatile vocal range in tracks like “The Static Age” and “Fall Into the Future,” but his attempts at hitting higher notes sound more like croaks than notes. And though instrumental solos are a signature move for the band, the overuse of guitars and synthesizers messily mixed together turns these solos into background noise rather than a building crescendo of anticipation.

Despite its many flaws, there are a few elements that serve this album well. The choruses of songs like “As Kind as You Can” and “Town Square” venture in a slightly different direction by layering Boeckner’s vocals with deeper, robust tones. Not only does this give the impression that Boeckner does, in fact, possess a vocal range, it also gives these songs the emotional depth needed to get their messages across. “Against the Day” is the album’s only song with multiple singers, this time featuring the band’s keyboard player Spencer Krug along with Boeckner. Krug’s voice is able to reach the higher notes that Boeckner desperately tries to achieve in earlier tracks. His voice also fits the melancholy, techno style of the song, making this track the standout of the album.

The lyrical content of “Thin Mind” is easily one of the album’s better parts, consistently delivering commentary of the world today while maintaining a melancholy feeling through the words. Without this glue holding it together, this record might have been a rougher listen, and, in general, “Thin Mind” feels like a forgettable blip in the overall span of Wolf Parade’s career.

Hannah Fitzpatrick can be reached at hfitzpatrick@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @HannahFitzpatr7