Monday, February 7th, 2011
Review of Young Galaxy’s Shapeshifting
Joseph YarmushDespite seeming, on paper at least, as exactly the sort of band I’d like – atmospheric space-rock with male-female vocals – I’ve never really warmed to Montreal’s Young Galaxy. Their self-titled debut made little impression and the most remarkable thing about my live introduction in January 2007 was how singer-guitarist Stephen Ramsay managed to make it through the whole set without falling over, considering how completely glazed-over he looked. Things improved somewhat with their punchier second record Invisible Republic and their more energized performance at the Toronto Islands show opening for Death Cab For Cutie in June 2008, but not quite enough to put me in the ranks of their fandom.
And while their third effort Shapeshifting, out tomorrow, isn’t necessary a Damascene moment for me, it’s a much more interesting and engaging record than I’d have ever thought they’d be capable of. Some have attributed this to the recruitment of Swede Dan Lissvik of Studio to mix the record… and this is where I fess up and admit that I have no idea who Dan Lissvik or Studio are, or why this is important. But if he’s responsible for making this a Young Galaxy record that I feel compelled to listen to out of interest rather than obligation, then credit where credit’s due.
Having the perfect producer, however, means nothing if the band and the material can’t give them something to work with, so ultimately the credit should go to Young Galaxy themselves. There’s a focus in the songwriting that’s new to me, at least, and while Catherine McCandless still has an oddly hard-edge to her phrasing, both her and Ramsay’s vocals have more personality and vitality than I’d heard on past records. That, combined with a distinctive sonic space – tight, clean, dancey and strangely sterile in an otherworldly sort of way – that’s clearly established from the opening notes of “Nth” and thoroughly explored from the pop end to the experimental over the course of eleven songs. Whereas Young Galaxy’s first two records felt like legs of a journey, incomplete when taken on their own, Shapeshifting is very much a destination and one worth revisiting. Welcome.
Young Galaxy’s previously-announced March 4 show at Lee’s Palace was canceled when tourmates You Say Party had to pull out on account of singer Becky Ninkovic’s bronchitis but a new date has been announced as part of Canadian Musicfest; they’ll be anchoring the March 10 showcase at Lee’s with Miracle Fortress and The Wilderness Of Manitoba, amongst others to be announced. Festival wristbands will be admitted, but that’s dependent on capacity – the $16.50 advance ticket is your only guarantee for getting in. Exclaim, Sticky and The National Post have interviews with the band.
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Peripheral Visionaries”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “We Have Everything”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Cover Your Tracks”
Stream: Young Galaxy / Shapeshifting
Video: Young Galaxy – “We Have Everything”
NYC Taper is sharing a recording of Suuns at The Rock Shop in New York a couple weeks ago, and the band have premiered a new video from their debut Zeroes QC. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace on April 14 opening up for The Black Angels.
Video: Suuns – “Pie IX”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Sold”
Beatroute talks to Dallas Good of The Sadies. They’re playing March 11 at The Mod Club as part of Canadian Musicfest with a secret guest headliner who’ll be announced March 8. That usually means it’s someone who’s playing in town on March 7 or thereabouts, but I don’t see any likely candidates. Levon Helm? Lady Gaga? Someone bigger than The Sadies, anyways.
And Under The Radar has posted their year-end piece about blogs, hype and blog hype online, including interviews with online peeps Said The Gramophone, Drowned In Sound, My Old Kentucky Blog and yours truly. I’m not as grumpy as I sound in the piece in real life, honestly. Or more accurately I am, but am more charming about it. I think.