Photograph by Joe Yarmush

Young Galaxy are back with their third album, Shapeshifting, to be released February 8 by Paper Bag Records. Although it feels like their second album came out just yesterday, yesterday was apparently mid-2009.  I wasn’t that enamoured with Invisible Republic, so it’s intriguing that Shapeshifting marks a drastic shift in musical direction. After recording, the album was shipped to Swedish electronic producer Dan Lissvik, who sent back an album that is decidedly different from the Young Galaxy we knew.

The vocals remain mostly intact, with the lead shifting between co-founders Catharine McCandless and Stephen Ramsay, but the familiar droning shoegaze guitars have been dumped for synthesized drumbeats and other electronic effects. The Swedish influence is apparent, as the album evokes bands like The Knife and Lissvik’s own Studio. As a re-imagining of the band, it’s a mostly successful experiment. ‘Peripheral Visionaries’ benefits most from this new arrangement; the catchy bass groove would be enough to make it the most memorable song on the album, but the outro is what solidifies it. ‘Cover Your Tracks’ and ‘B.S.E.’ also stand out.

Since departing Arts&Crafts, Young Galaxy seem to have no issue taking risks, and Shapeshifting is indeed a risk. It marks one of the few times a change in sound is more than just some added gimmick, like a horn section. This album would have been drastically different if Jace Lasek of the Besnard Lakes was once again producing, and Young Galaxy deserve credit for stepping out of their comfort zone.

Young Galaxy – Peripheral Visionaries
Young Galaxy – Cover Your Tracks

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— , January 13, 2011    2 Comments
Photograph by Joe Yarmush

Photograph by Joe Yarmush

For better or worse, Young Galaxy has jumped ship from prestigious Canadian indie label Arts&Crafts due to creative differences. One wonders if Stars maxed out the label’s quota for celestial-themed indie bands fronted by a male-female duo. Young Galaxy’s self-titled debut, despite having a Canadian rock radio hit in ‘Outside the City’, didn’t get the attention I felt it deserved, particularly since it released on the aforementioned label, so I found it interesting that their sophomore disc would be a reinvention of sorts. Newly independent, with their first recording as a full band, Young Galaxy has something to prove. Founding duo Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless take this opportunity to create a record that strays away from the introversion of their debut to create something a bit more outreaching.

More concise than its predecessor, which ran long at times, Invisible Republic aims for a more live-based sound rather than excessively using studio techniques. The result is an album with a bit more immediacy and focus. Similar themes of hope and heartache are present, but I miss the extended floaty feeling of their previous work. ‘Light Years’ is the closest thing present here. Other songs veer into territory occupied by any number of forgotten new wave bands, particularly ‘Smoke and Mirror Show’.

McCandless’ vocals on this album rub me the wrong way. There’s a weird vibrato quality to her voice that was likely smoothed away in the heavier production of the debut. It’s most noticeable in ‘Long Live the Fallen World’, the opening track. She fares better taking a supporting role on songs such as ‘Dreams’. Apart from that, there’s not a lot of material that’s particularly memorable here. It feels like a retread of things that have been done before by other bands. I respect the band for having the courage to leave their label, but I don’t expect this album to win over many new fans.

Young Galaxy – Long Live the Fallen World
Young Galaxy – Light Years
Young Galaxy – Dreams

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— , September 15, 2009    4 Comments