WVAU’s #3 Album of 2014: Iceage – Plowing Into the Field of Love

Jesse Paller, Paz Monge

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Courtesy of Matador Records.

Iceage is by far the best-dressed boy band I‰’ll ever see. After delivering two flawless LPs that made the world see why they possess the title of “coolest Danish post-punk band,‰” hot babe Elias Bender RÌünnenfelt and his friends decided to give Plowing Into the Field of Love a more baroque approach. Sometimes I like to think that they just got bored of their trademark sound (aggressive but catchy) and decided to surprise everyone with a far more personal approach to post-punk, asking themselves what would it feel like to be God‰’s favorite.

After very impulsive/angsty melodies in 2011‰’s New Brigade and last year‰’s disgustingly poetic You‰’re Nothing, the amazingly named Plowing Into the Field of Love leaves behind their bohemian childhood for something that sounds way too beautiful, albeit with sparks of ugliness. The two opening songs, “On My Fingers‰” and “The Lord‰’s Favorite,‰” perfectly display this mature new sound, with plunking pianos and lush, country grooves covering more ground than anything that could be called post-punk. But for all of the decrease in tempo and increase in atmosphere, Iceage maintain a dynamic punkish energy, adding a furious touch to their instrumentals. Nearly every song feels as if it‰’s about to go right off the rails, every frantic guitar strum or drum fill straining to break from the song‰’s bounds.

Transcendental erlk̦nig Elias Bender RÌünnenfelt enhances this violent escapism 100%. He heaves, growls, chokes, yells, and occasionally sings, submitting the raging music beneath him with the insane swagger of a werewolf rock frontman rending through his leather outfit. His dramatic, poetic lyrics portray a persona halfway between sociopath and Chosen One, and his attitude exemplifies a man defined by a hand-in-hand execration of his fellow mortals and fascination with the beyond.

As Plowing surges forward Iceage prove that they have widened their scope with next-level compositional ambition. “How Many‰” moves from tempestuous verses to a radiant half-time chorus that dazzles with ringing guitars. “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled‰” ropes these chimes into a codeined-out Neil Young riff, with an occasional liquid trumpet lead. On “Stay,‰” an enormous bass line shepherds barren acoustic strums along an ominous waltz. 

The sonics on this record are huge and lush; nothing is subtle, and yet the whole production is very tasteful. Instruments and sound fields are added and subtracted from the mix with the fastidious eye of a classical arranger. And yet for all of the grandeur of the first half of Plowing, it all serves as a great introduction to the cathartic second half: first they show you what they can now do with music, and then they take you in and take you somewhere with it.

“Forever‰” is a big moment among big moments, with lyrics like “if I could dive into the other / like it was an ocean / caressed by its water / I‰’d lose myself forever.‰” Bender RÌünnenfelt sets up this deep mood for the latter half of the album, followed with epic/apocalyptic sounds. “Cimmerian Shade‰” seems to come as an opportune continuation of the “Forever,‰” with a heavier feel to it. “Against the Moon‰” clarifies RÌünnenfelt‰’s sociopathic mindset (“whatever I do / I do not repent / I keep pissing against the moon‰Û) over muted horns, romantic keyboards and twinkling pianos, a shockingly gorgeous ballad when you consider what they‰’re capable of. 

After the scorched earth of “Simony,‰” the closing title track becomes the perfect closure for such a powerful album, the most romantic, soul-seeking and illuminating of all. A beautifully naked guitar riff with the pretty angst of ideal indie rock gradually grows, flanked by pounding drums and Neutral Milk Hotel horns, over which RÌünnenfelt gasps the album‰’s enigmatic, passionate title phrase to bring down the show.

It‰’s quite beautiful to see a band of four young Danes grow from angry alternative punks into a band that has begun to understand their situation regarding the music they make. Here they break away from previous genre identification and pursue their unique artistic vision in a Romantic firestorm of music. Young, hot and full of potential, Iceage is able to remind us of the beauty in our routine existence, able to combine repulsiveness with attractiveness in everything they deliver.