Krug’s most recent phase finds him abandoning record companies’ expectations and the pressures of record-release-tour-repeat cycling and setting up a semi-permanent HQ on Patreon of all places. Since early 2019, he’s been releasing a song a month for patrons and superfans, mostly piano-based compositions akin to 2013’s under-appreciated Julia With Blue Jeans On album. With the onset of the pandemic, Krug’s Patreon offerings have expanded to include archival recordings, alternate takes, and access to live-stream performances. He’ll also write you a personalized story if that’s your thing. It has been a successful pivot to monetizing his creativity and managing his transition away from his previous identities.
Most of Krug’s solo records are built around a kind of “what if” conceit — What if he writes a whole album on a double organ (Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped from 2011)? What if an epic Finnish prog-rock band backs him (With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery and My Best Human Face from 2012 and 2016, respectively)? What if it’s just Krug’s voice and his piano (the aforementioned Julia With Blue Jeans On and 2014’s City Wrecker EP)? For Fading Graffiti, his first album under his own name, Krug has reimagined and re-recorded piano-only Patreon released songs with a full band. The result of his latest “what if” experiment is, surprisingly, Krug’s most straightforward, unfussy record yet.
And still, it throws long-time listeners and fans a left hook right off the bat with the country jangle guitar of the opening title track. If there is an overarching instrumental centre of Fading Graffiti, it would have to be the guitar, but there’s enough give and play in Krug’s arrangements that it never feels like he’s setting any limits and rules. His pearly piano playing shines on “Winter Sings to Fall,” but it feels like a fraction of the whole and finds a comfortable home amid the layers of bass, drums, and guitars. Though the song isn’t as domesticated as it initially feels, it is a Krug composition, finding another gear in its last third that changes the tempo without altering the mood and feel. “River River” comes as closest to Moonface as anything else on the record.
Though not everything in Fading Graffiti clicks (“The Moon and the Dream” feels slight and under-cooked), there’s a lesson on Fading Graffiti captured in Krug’s most straightforward and literal lyrics yet. Like the ongoing evolution from which these songs spring, Krug has found comfort and security in the process. “Just let them be a kind of song that just / Kind of goes along until the needle hits the edge,” he sings on “One at a Time,” signalling that he’s done trying to fit into a neat corporate definition of music-making and marketing. Even before the pandemic grounded him to domestic life with his wife and new baby, Krug was finding himself again, as evidenced on the album’s final track, “Pin a Wing Above the Door”: “I had a good time just hanging around the house with you all month / I’m not moving anymore / I felt actual peace, I felt actual love / Pin a wing above the door.” In letting go — of record labels, setting strict musical parameters, and his previous band names — Spencer Krug has found a phase in which he can truly be himself.