Electronically driven, but vocally backed, is what Handsome Furs have shown us their sound consists of on their past two full-length records. It seems on Sound Kapital, they chose to put an even larger strain on the electronic elements of each song, nixing the guitar somewhat completely. Although an interesting choice, this heavy electronic sound is one that works stylistically for Dan Boeckner and his wife, and follow member, Alexei Perry.
This album starts out somewhat misleading on “When I Get Back.” Sure, there is the lovable drawl of vocals, but there is also this backing dub-esque beat that throws the number off a tad bit. Despite this underwhelming start, Handsome Furs progress as the album moves along. After the pace increases on “Damage,” they follow with “Bury Me Standing,” which is the first real standout track, complete with raging synthesizers, a hint of electric guitar and quickly iterated lyrics. Here, you also have the introduction of a mechanical feeling emoted from the songs. The repeated lyrics turn into a motif, feeling similar to a machine doing the same thing over and over.
This proves to be a bit of a double edged sword for this band. For some, this may prove to be simply too much because of the doubly repetitive base in synth. However, others may be allured by the gripping intensity of Boeckner’s vocals that Handsome Furs has not previously been known for, as exemplified on the power double of “What About Us,” and “Repatriated.” As I mentioned before, it seems like as this album moves along, the songs get better and better, and these two are no exception; they don’t contain the redundancy that the earlier tracks seem to have. Or perhaps the band’s sound just grows on you with more exposure.
But the most impressive song for me comes at the very end with the seven-minute stunner that is “No Feelings.” The exact opposite of its namesake, this song is packed with head bob inducing beats, but is also driven intensely by the power of Boeckner’s vocals. He successfully takes over the song, as opposed to letting the electronic aspects have the lead, and it does not feel longer than any of the other songs on Sound Kapital because it is so enjoyable. The track itself ends with the repetition of “no feeling” over and over, contributing to the overall theme of the growth of industrial behavior, in the most careful way possible.
With the large focus on electronic beats, I was pleasantly surprised with this album. The prevalence of Boeckner’s vocals draw away from heavy synth, creating nostalgia for those who love his power in his other works, and furnishing a new love for those who haven’t delved into his catalog.
Download: Handsome Furs – Repatriated [MP3]