During stints in the beloved, defunct rock acts Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, Spencer Krug often yelped lyrics steeped in withering self-reflection and antipathy.
Powerful as those songs are, they pale next to those on his latest album, “Julia With Blue Jeans On,” recorded as Moonface, the stage name he has adopted for his solo work.
Just two components — Krug’s voice and a piano — create a haunting, spectral atmosphere that direct attention to the Canadian songwriter’s doubts and insecurities.
“Piano is such a brutally honest instrument, and I think that had an impact on the way the lyrics came out,” says Krug, who plays Swedish American Hall, as Moonface, on Tuesday. “There is a darkness to the lyrics, for sure, but also a simplicity. I’ve kind of dropped the more bombastic and allegorical songwriting approach I’ve used in the past.”
Krug, a classically trained musician who played keyboards in rock bands, purchased a piano to keep himself busy during brutal winters in Helsinki, Finland, where he has taken up residence in recent years.
“I was just playing around on this piano that I basically bought on impulse, and all of a sudden these songs just started emerging,” Krug says. “Eventually, there was an album’s worth of material that I really enjoyed playing.”
His last Moonface outing, “Heartbreaking Bravery,” written with the Finnish rock group Siinai, was an angry breakup album filled with bitterness and loneliness, but also empathy. He says, “I think the album is ultimately about acceptance with yourself and your vulnerabilities. There is optimism in this music.”
Krug said he created the Moonface moniker to write albums like his new one, with compositions that might seem alienating or confusing if recorded under the guise of his former bands, which are known for their cacophony of uproariously intricate sounds.
“There are certain parameters that are expected out of certain bands,” Krug says. “And it’s not just record labels or audiences or critics who place expectations. I’ve been guilty of playing to expectations. I don’t have to worry about that with Moonface.”
After years touring with large ensembles, Krug looks forward to performing onstage accompanied by just a piano.
“There is something liberating about playing by yourself,” Krug says. “I’m going to mess up, and everyone is going to know when I do. But that makes the performances all the more human, and I think there is something special about that.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $14 to $16
Contact: (415) 431-7578, www.swedishamericanhall.com