It's a common practice for indie rock records to end with the album's slowest, moodiest, and most dramatically lingering song. This happens so often it's beyond citing examples; it's a trend that's afforded itself a distinction all its own, that "last song on the album" kinda song. Heartbreaking Bravery, the second album by Wolf Parade singer Spencer Krug under the solo guise of Moonface, is full of these kinds of songs. On the first few listens, that feeling of melancholic closure saturates the glacial bummer "Headed for the Door," with its seven-and-a-half-minute story-song of impossible love and spoken word outro. It's a classic "last song on the album" song, but not the last song. Somehow Krug keeps the momentum going after what feels like a good place to stop, and repeated listens to Heartbreaking Bravery reveal that strange talent is one of the album's defining characteristics. Krug traveled to Finland to record the album with onetime Wolf Parade tourmates Siinai, their expansive lineup filling out the songwriter's skeletal keyboard-and-vocal sketches with darkly lush arrangements. Along with the brooding, sadly beautiful feel of almost every song, Siinai's crystalline electronic touches and arctic guitar lines cultivate a sense of protracted ending from start to finish. The album-opening title track sets up this dour dynamic. While not overly lengthy, the songs feel slow-motion, falling somewhere between the Cure's master strokes on Disintegration and the wasted subway ride of Interpol's early singles. Even in its upbeat moments, like the anti-anthem "Shitty City" and the Bauhaus-esque repetition of "I'm Not the Phoenix Yet," Heartbreaking Bravery is a shadowy ride. Krug's lyrics ride a line between concordantly moody tones of emptiness and flat-out weird or uncomfortably comical themes of sex and tragedy. "Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips" rhymes its title with "make you look like Stevie Nicks" without a hint of irony, keeping a straight face over an explosive goth-informed beat. By the time Moonface gets to the actual last song on the album, "Lay Your Cheek on Down," it's almost too epic of a closer in an album full of closers. Notching up the wintery melodrama to the heights of Sigur Rós' most pleading moments or the kind of cold magic that Krug's friends in Destroyer achieve time after time, the song extracts the air in any given room and provides a gauge for the rest of the album. Heartbreaking Bravery is a fantastic slab of meticulous indie composition by all standards, but it's truly incredible in its ability to make almost every statement on the record come off like the last word.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas