Smile Politely

Listing to Music Vol. 1: Wolf Parade and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

Wolf Parade.jpg

Editor’s Note: Roving beer and music enthusiast Matt Cohn combines these iconic forces, matching the perfect brew for the perfect band in his new column, Listing to Music.

Beer and music are meant to intoxicate, so what happens when we combine these forces?

Visualize a Venn Diagram formed by two iconic circular objects of our time. On one side we have the sweat left by a bottle of beer, or a pint glass. The other side can be a compact disc, a vinyl record or (pervasively) a portable device’s click wheel.

Today’s beer happens to be a Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute India Pale Ale (IPA), and the music is Wolf Parade’s second full-length effort, At Mount Zoomer. The IPA style was England’s solution for sour beer washing up on the shores of its far-flung colonies, namely India. Since then, brewers have experimented with all manner of hopping times and quantities, trying to arrive at the most floral, boldly intoxicating blend of hops and barley. Dogfish Head’s has definitely fortified its flagship beer for the journey to Urbana from far-off Delaware.

Wolf Parade is a rock band from British Columbia, Canada. Like seafaring beer barons, rock bands must also fortify themselves for long trips, lest they become bitter and acquire a foul smell. Does Wolf Parade have the blended songcraft, texture and adventurous spirit to carry it through multiple listens?


Today’s beverage has matured comfortably in its bottle, conditioned for this moment. We open and pour, allowing the froth to rise slowly and crown the fragrant amber opacity. This beer has been brooding for an hour, and we are intrigued.

Distantly, a man is also brooding as he barrels down a metropolitan blacktop. “In my head is a city at night,” vocalist Dan Boekner laments. Yellow dashes are the only reliable guides. The forgotten flashes of a turn signal advertise a turn the driver half-made ages ago. Swerving cyclists with blinking helmet beacons disobey everything. No wonder that “this place is no friend of mine.” This initial conceit, made during “Soldier’s Grin” on Wolf Parade’s At Mount Zoomer hints at a constant need to relocate, if only in the mind. This listless urge bubbles and ferments over the album’s duration, with stinging consequences (not to us listeners, of course).

But where’s the first place we’d go if we got fed up? “Into the desert we go…Call it a ritual, call it whatever you will.” A crunchy syncopation leads us into the tumbleweed expanse. Road signs promise a “Language City” up ahead. “How can {we} turn away?” But alas, the metaphor becomes too much to bear and we want a drink. But how to complement this slightly bitter yet focused search through a landscape of brown-hued madness?

Whiffs of orange and colorful foliage accompany the first frothy sip of the 60 Minute IPA. Sixty minutes of hopping has cultured this brew, though not entirely weighing it down. The beer maintains a softness and is not too pungent. Though a tad syrupy, this beer doesn’t always need to be sipped. Rounding off the first pint, the crispness still prevails.

A similar warble flows from some of At Mount Zoomer’s backing keyboard lines, though at times they are overly florid. Textures are spread evenly, and the keyboards’ overall effects are dense and punchy. They almost always complement the well-tempered, crisp and crunchy guitar tone. This album is certainly more of a sipping affair than their first record, Apologies To the Queen Mary. Taken in small portions, each song can serve up several different moods. “Bang Your Drum” both does so and asks why someone would even beat a drum in the first place. “California Dreamer” builds on itself slowly, yet lands on its feet at each refrain, stoically calling out to the dreamer in question. These questions ferment as each song progresses.

Glance at the record, back at the pint glass and the impermanence left by its sweaty circle on the table. The comparison becomes more clear. This beer and this album couple comfortably. Several beers into the evening, and everything sounds smooth and bouncy.

Wolf Parade’s second album punches its way into the ears, and then sits, acquiring strength and density through repeated listens. Any longer and a bitterness or cloying sweetness might nudge its way in. One more uncharacteristic time signature or sugary synth line might send us over.

Quite the same, The Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA has held its own, leaving us desiring no more or less time absorbing a hop tinge. Just one sip of the brewery’s 120 Minute IPA is an opaque amber glove slap in the face, entirely overwrought and tawdry. Thankfully, the beer on hand is grounded, yet not overpowering. And our bodies feel little more than soft and special, which was the point of drinking so much in the first place.

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