Swan Lake’s 2006 debut, Beast Moans, was a classic example of a supergroup that was less than the sum of its parts. Almost every track was drenched in superfluous layers of murky fuzz and reverb, obscuring anything that might reveal the talent of the songwriters involved. Thankfully, for the group’s follow-up album, Dan Bejar (Destroyer, the New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown) and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes, Blackout Beach) have opted for less fussy arrangements, with a natural sound that reflects the work of a band, rather than a studio-crafted experiment.
The keyboard-heavy arrangements sound more like Krug’s doing than the other two songwriters, but the band goes to some lengths to show that Swan Lake is a democracy; there are nine songs here, meaning each member gets three apiece. There’s not a dud in the bunch, and while the album doesn’t have a clear standout track, the Krug-fronted piano ballad “A Hand at Dusk” comes close; running at over six minutes in length, it’s the album’s slowest, prettiest song, featuring perhaps the most straight-forward love lyrics Krug has ever penned (“You still look good to me in that knee-length checkered dress”).
Swan Lake still sounds better as a concept than in reality, and Enemy Mine doesn’t rank among the best work of any of its members. But the album is nevertheless a solid collection of songs, and a worthy addition to the catalogue of three of Canada’s best songwriters.