Loose, fun and muscular, Wolf Parade's third album, Expo 86, may be a high point in an already soaring career. The band has spoken about primarily recording the album live and without overdubs, and that immediacy is both the most prominent and satisfying component of the album.
From the opening art-boogie of Spencer Krug's "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain," the band hones their already impressive live dynamics to balance tension and eruptions with impeccable skill. Yet it is Wolf Parade's textural mastery that makes this a near-flawless release; granted, it's also pretty great when they're just bashing things out—as on the fantastic, throttling rocker "Pobody's Nerfect." Dan Boeckner's shimmering "Palm Road" builds upon beautiful layers of fuzz and synthesizer outbursts, while the dirty disco of Krug's "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)" brilliantly highlights the interplay between Boeckner's piercing guitar lines and Arlen Thompson's thunderous drums.
Although Krug's "In the Direction of the Moon" may be slightly aimless and overlong, it coalesces for occasionally moving moments. Still, Krug's "Two Men in New Tuxedos" is undercooked and somewhat dull.
Ultimately, the album closes with both singers' most impressive work. Boeckner's chugging "Yulia" is a driving, heartfelt anthem, while Krug's ringing "Cave-o-Sapien" hints at the band's wry humor while effortlessly weaving coy observations ("I spied the wildflower kisses on your neck") with surging melody.
The most impressive, intimidating thing about Expo 86 is its suggestion that the best may be yet to come.