What sets Montreal's Handsome Furs apart from Wolf Parade, the band for which frontman Dan Boeckner is probably best known, is tempo. Where Wolf Parade dips into more than their fair share of upbeat, even disco beat-driven, indie rock, Handsome Furs instead pull back and strip down their songs. They're upright, elegant, and above all melancholy, swinging between sparse, mechanical blips and lush, throbbing walls of sound. The change of pace really fits Boeckner to a 'T,' if only because his vocal range is given a lot of room to spread out. It turns out Boeckner sounds a lot like Jeff Buckley, and that's not a bad thing; Shearwater also comes to mind, as much for the vocals as for the epic nature of this project, as well as Land of Talk, another Montreal band that concerns itself with making gorgeous, somber indie rock. But while Handsome Furs are as cerebral as these artists, they never get bogged down in pathos; they're fierce, and fiercely intelligent, and they want to hold your attention. For a song about a depressing small town in the middle of nowhere, "Dead + Rural" sounds practically exultant; it's Bob Seger meets Echo & the Bunnymen, all world-weary keyboards and triumphant guitars. This album concerns itself very seriously with the notion of "home" (leaving it, searching for it, and perhaps never finding it), but it's far from dreary; Plague Park is ultimately an uplifting work. ~ Margaret Reges, Rovi
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