Vieux Loup is more of a holding pattern than a great revelation.
It's a tale as old as time itself: right as a well-regarded group of Underground Renown™ makes moves towards the mainstream, they decide to go on hiatus, and the legacy of these once-promising wonders becomes less a monument than it does a hazy mist. We've all heard it and seen this happen too many times, which is why we now have the learned behavior of simply taking the spoils and quietly moving on to the Next Great Whatever.
For Rolf Klausener, though, that very cliché became his life. In 2010, his evocative low-key acoustic numbers were reaching their widest audience yet, and for good reason. Although his band the Acorn has been kicking around since the early '00s, it was the release of their 2010 disc No Ghost that kicked things up a notch, with Klausener re-discovering the emotional power of negative space, noting how a few light strums and a light backbeat was all that he needed to create immediate catharsis. No Ghost is easily the Acorn's best album, and before long, the song "Almanac" wound up soundtracking a rather beautiful little scene in the excellent 2011 comedy Crazy Stupid Love. The band seemed poised to finally make their breakthrough (thank you, Steve Carell).
Fun fact about that breakthrough: it never happened. Klausener and the other founding members of the Acorn were spread all over their Canadian homeland, so in 2011 they just decided to go on hiatus, Klausener making occasional public appearances but for the most part staying low until he began sifting through sketches and scribbles in 2014 to make what we now have before us: Vieux Loup, the band's fourth proper studio full-length.
Yet right from the onset, something is a bit off with Vieux Loup. While no one was expecting No Ghost Mk II this time around, Vieux Loup nonetheless lacks confidence in its own abilities, striking a lot of the same poses we've seen from the band before, but doing so in such a way that we as listeners feel we're being kept at an emotional distance. Opening number "Rapids" has light percussion, ambient bell tones doing strong texture work in the background, and those ever-present so-simple-its-brilliant guitar strums that make the basis of all those great Acorn numbers that have shown up on playlists made by trusted friends. This time around, though, Klausener's too-close-to-the-mic vocals are swapped out in favor of heavy reverb and ambiance, making it difficult to hear what he's singing sometimes.