When Young Galaxy first started out, they had a fair but pretty innocuous beginning. As part of the Art and Crafts label, the quartet from Montreal failed to stand out among their Canadian peers with their brand of lithe dream pop. After two decent but unremarkable albums, the band decided it was time for a change. Along with a new label in Paper Bag, the band decided they wanted to shift their sound as well. But for that to happen, they would need some outside help. Enter Studio‘s Dan Lissvik, all the way from Sweden.
Whatever arrangement they had with Lissvik, it was pretty much the best move they made. The record that came out – Shapeshifting – was transformative. Lissvik twisted the necessary knobs and added the highlight flourishes into Young Galaxy‘s songs. In doing so, he elevated the band’s sound into one that is Euro icy and all-enveloping, perfect for singer Catherine McCandless’s soothing coos. And one that is very much ready for remixes and dance halls. Though under-appreciated, Shapeshifting remains one of my favorite records of 2011, one that I wish more people had a chance to hear.
When the big change out of the way, Young Galaxy are now ready to step more confidently into this new sound with their latest record Ultramarine. While Shapeshifting was produced remotely by Lissvik (the band sent him a complete tape of the songs for him to fiddle with), Ultramarine is more organically processed. This time, the band flew to Sweden to collaborate with Lissvik – to play and to perfect the songs with him. The result is a record that seems more wholly complete and possibly greater than the already wonderful Shapeshifting. With Ultramarine, Young Galaxy sounds more confident and McCandless has taken a more commanding role, singing all the songs in the new record. In fact, the three songs that open the album pack quite an opening salvo and are among the best opening combination I have heard this year.
Ultramarine is also a warmer record too, losing some of Shapeshifting‘s iciness (though a strand of sinister undercurrent remains, especially in the album’s second half). It feels very much like a warm sunshine breaking through the snow. There is an underlying stream of romantic sadness and hopefulness within it. In other words, it feels like the perfect spring record to get you out of your blues and onto your dancing shoes. I really really like this one.
Stream two of the after-mentioned opening songs from the record, Pretty Boy and New Summer embedded below.
Young Galaxy – Ultramarine comes out 4/23 via Paper Bag Records (order here)