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Album reviews
Wolf Parade
Thin Mind
Release year:
Sub Pop
03 February 2020 / by Cole Brocksom (author)

Similar Artists: Broken Social Scene, Grizzly Bear, 

Montreal indie rock outfit Wolf Parade are back with their fifth studio album, Thin Mind, a nihilistic-yet-romantic take on life in a world that feels like it’s falling apart. Bittersweet pop hooks, glum dance rock, and sophisticated songwriting come together on Thin Mind.

The album hits the ground running, starting off the track “Under Glass” with the band playing full tilt under a roaring guitar solo, without so much as a count in. The garage-rock-esque guitar hook slides between verses that explore the pressure people put on themselves to meet others’ expectations, encapsulated by the refrain "nobody knows what they want, anymore." 

The track is exciting, despite it's somewhat anxious and existential subject matter. It grabs the listener's attention and throws you in, showing the contrasting themes and versatile music that are in store for the rest of the record. 

Throughout Thin Mind, Wolf Parade write on themes of loneliness and guilt, like on the dismal disco track, “Julia Take your Man Home.” The second of two singles that preceded the release of the album, the song grooves under a tale of the titular Julia’s jerk boyfriend as he tries to escape his regrets through increasingly reckless behaviour.

Follow this with the first precursory single, “Forest Green,” which touches on themes of suburban complacency and the struggles of reconciling conflicting feelings about your home. All this, while flashy synth runs dance across an infectious pop tune. 

The theme of environmentalism takes centre stage on the next track, “Out of Control,” delivering a melancholy melody with spinning guitar chords, pounding drums and atmospheric synths that reflect the eerie hopelessness of an environment deteriorating around you.

Thin Mind’s centrepiece are the songs “The Static Age” and “As Kind As You Can,” which flow seamlessly into each other, and showcase the songwriting talents of guitarist Dan Boeckner and keyboardist Spencer Krug. “The Static Age” leans into Boeckner’s straightforward rock skills and penchant for bemoaning the plight of the working class. A near symphonic crescendo swells after Boeckner’s last cry of “We can begin again.”

A single synth chord is left behind after the climax of “The Static Age,” and the hammering piano chords of “As Kind as You Can” which sets out as an old school piano love ballad. The last chord of the phrase is just out of place enough to knock the tune off kilter, before it settles back to start the phrase again. The track’s progressive structure, never staying on the same idea for too long, paired with the abstract lyricism are trademarks of Krug’s writing.

Wolf Parade experiment with synth pop on the latter half of the LP, with “Fall Into the Future”s heavy, moving bassline and shimmering leads, while “Against the Day” sounds like it could be a Tears for Fears or Depeche Mode track, without feeling too out of place on Thin Mind.

“Wandering Son” starts off like a classic piece of indie rock, but builds on itself as the track goes on. Krug’s synth lyrical synth lines meander behind Boeckner’s lyrics on family estrangement, and of never finding a place to call home.

Thin Mind closes with the song “Town Square”, with choppy staccato organ chords ticking between stabs of Boeckner’s guitar. “All we are is reaching for the light”, the chorus repeats, decrying the use of technology as a supplement for genuine human interaction.

Wolf Parade’s really put in the effort on Thin Mind and it shows. The record moves, surprises, pleads, protests, and anthemizes the modern human condition, taking the stresses that come with the static age and making something haunting, beautiful, and hopeful.

Rating: 7.5/10

The author

Cole Brocksom

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