Less is more for Vancouver-based duo Handsome Furs. Dan Boeckner (of Wolf Parade) and his fiancée, Alexei Perry, have created a sparse, symphonic record loaded with deep blue guitar riffs and sacred whiskey laden lyrics.
Dark, minimal, yet aurally orchestrated, The Fur’s record uses the basics: vocals, guitar, and a drum machine. Boeckner plays guitar and keyboards while Perry programs with an “archaic” drum machine and small keyboards. Plague Park is an album you could listen to anywhere, from a shit-hole apartment in the city to the front porch of a house in the middle of nowhere. Reminiscent of bands like 16 Horsepower and Molasses, the Handsome Furs manage to fuse their stripped-down instrumental arrangements with the subtle intricacies of great songwriting.
Tracks like “What We Had” and “Hearts of Iron” have a back country soul to them, with a melancholy longing for better times and confusion as to where they went in the first place. Oddly enough, the record itself is a tribute to Scandinavia, specifically a park in Helsinki, Finland where thousands of bodies were buried due to an outbreak of the plague, hence the name of the album.
According to Boeckner, during the first days of spring, people go to the park to get hammered, pay their respects to the dead, and pile beer caps on a stone monument. I mean if I was going to do a tribute album, I would probably hail my respects to Carhenge in Nebraska or the world’s largest ball of twine in Kansas, but hey, apples and oranges folks, apples and oranges.
In a world full of bright, shiny, faux-pas records, the Handsome Furs have retaliated with an austere and beautiful record that meshes a taste of the tarnished antique past with shiny electronic beats of the present.