Review: Young Galaxy – Shapeshifting (2011)

Indie music likes comfort. It’s why disappointment runs rampant nowadays. Stick to the trend, you’ll do decently. Maybe very well. Do something different? Nah, we’ll leave that to someone else. Something was fundamentally different about “Cover Your Tracks” in spite of its baleric beat. “Peripheral Visionaries” emerged days later, with its churning bass drum kick, sprinkled keys and build-up not typical of indie these days. You expect it to stay solid, but the music built slow and steady into a tremendous chorused group singing near the end; improbably catchy attributed to the first taste “Cover Your Tracks.” Now, revert back to Montreal’s Young Galaxy‘s prior Invisible Republic and the talent instantly solidifies in the otherwise diluted indie blogosphere. You see, Invisible Republic was full indie pop with a drifting spirit. Shapeshifting is a sea change, leaving you satisfied by the ambient absence of too much. It’s like going to Underground Kitchen for dinner, paying for quality, receiving small portions, and leaving with a glow only a late night blurring dance party can give you.

Studio‘s Dan Lissvik took what Stephen Ramsay, Catherine McCandless and Stephen Kemp recorded and reinterpreted the pieces. Skype connected the dots between Sweden and Canada, leaving something unpredictable starting with the backwards “Nth” plunging into “The Angels Are Surely Weeping.” Despite the dreary title and dramatic album art, the electronic and synth elements don’t leave the album frigid. Hanna’s guest vocals are an instance of the warm layers interspersed throughout. Stephen and Catherine’s vocals, their harmonies especially, are the extra logs to the hearth. When she takes over on “Blown Minded,” it slowly becomes evident their last album is a thing of the past. Their new shift towards a true dream pop, atmospherically punctuated by piano over sirens of synth, digging deep.

What makes Shapeshifting so remarkable is the production, beats that consistently move forward as on “We Have Everything” and “Peripheral Visionaries.” It’s varied as well, lending a bit of Balearic to “Phantoms” and “Cover Your Tracks” while going into ghastly isolation through “High and Goodbye.” And while transformation and transfiguration permeate the lyrics throughout, the music always moves either forward or left or inward less predictably than you would expect from the ‘indie’ label.

Young Galaxy
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Rating: 8.4/10

Thoughts?