Young Galaxy / Shapeshifting / Paper Bag Records
Muted mystery; intrigue; a riddle begging to be examined and cracked – these are the types of qualities the Polaris Prize nominees in Young Galaxy seem to have tried to imbue into their third full-length. The results are generally more sterile and distant than truly mysterious – or even genuinely interesting – but, of course, those are all fairly common tropes in the shoegaze aesthetic, so it’s entirely possible that was the idea all along. Shapeshifting sounds like what might happen if Kathryn Calder (New Pornographers/ formerly Immaculate Machine) joined Cut Copy, only to demand that she be the lead vocalist on the vast majority of tracks. It’s kind of a shame considering how well singer/guitarist Stephen Ramsay’s vocals work in the ethereal ebb and flow of the tunes.
After hearing the album’s first proper song, “The Angels Are Surely Weeping”, listeners may rightly believe they’ve signed on for a righteously chilled out 40-or-so minutes. When the very next song kicks in however (“Blown Minded”) Catherine McCandless voice sounds as though its being pumped in from backstage. Rather than really connecting with the action, her words and intonations seem physically distant – and not simply because of the reoccurring reverb effect they are given. Instrumentally, the band doesn’t disappoint, and McCandless doesn’t deliver a completely out-of-body performance. She and Ramsay partake in a few sultry duets including “Peripheral Visionaries” and “Cover Your Tracks”, where she proves the band’s ability to entrance listeners. But this talent has yet to be refined to its fullest, leaving quirky songs like the title track with a not-fully-realized feeling – like the album itself.
Download: “Peripheral Visionaries”
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