young-galaxy-ultramarine1[xrr rating=3.25/5]Does any country have as much per capita pop-credibility as Sweden? Possibly due to the influence of ABBA in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Nordic nation has produced acts like the Knife, Jens Lekman, Lykke Li, Miike Snow and Robyn who each alter the standard pop-soundscapes with their own, often eerie, aesthetics. To capture the progressive nature of this talent, Canada’s Young Galaxy enlisted the support of Dan Lissvik, of Sweden’s “afrobeat-dub-disco-indie-pop” outfit known as Studio, to tighten up the electrogaze of their eponymous debut and 2010’s Invisible Republic into the sing-along dynamics of Shapeshifting. Continuing to remove the mildly abrasive qualities of their early work in favor of streamlined verse-chorus-verse songwriting, and putting further emphasis on the vocals of Catherine McCandless, the Lissvik-produced Ultramarine is more crisp and refreshing than a wakeless English Bay.

For those familiar with the Vancouver-based collective, one change has made a major impact on the release: the total lack of vocals from guitarist Stephen Ramsay. This sonic realignment opens up space for McCandless, who at times demonstrates a Florence Welch-like ability to effortlessly hit notes above relentless percussion. This vocal expansiveness has also resulted in a newfound appreciation for poetic obscurities. “I don’t need no distinction to make mine what is mine/Inhale the smoking trail where lightning struck the sea/I don’t need authenticity to make me more like me,” the songstress coos on “What We Want”. The message itself means very little until the album reaches “Privileged Poor”, where McCandless serenades listeners about the trials as living a struggling artists; a time when one questions his/her own ability to share a sense of self to a mass market.

The connectedness we now feel with McCandless alone is amplified; however, it happens at the expense of the raw dynamics that played out of the group’s first two releases. Whereas one could feel the pain within the early tracks, we are now simply listening to the frontwoman and expressing empathy for her tribulations. The rest of the band is more than a machine, but Lissvik places them deeper into that role the longer he is at the production chair.

The focus has shifted, but like fellow Canadians Arcade Fire, Young Galaxy still has the innate ability to weave heart-felt lyrics through hum-along, body-gyrating instrumentals. As the synths roll across the Balearic beat of “Pretty Boy” it is easy to jump from a chair and do a celebratory jig while McCandless laments about the isolation felt by a lover; a feeling that not even her love could resolve. The feelings grow even darker on “In Fire”, which exists in the shadows of a roaring emotional blaze.

As track “New Summer” attests, Young Galaxy is a group comfortable in their role as summer mixtape manufacturer. Ultramarine contains singles that are sure to highlight many a pool party or impromptu indie-dance party, but it is also just too sweet and unassuming to withstand the barrage of challengers that wish to hold claim to the summer anthems of 2013.

  • Young Galaxy: Falsework

    Falsework has great work on it, but not a cohesive balance to carry on that power down the…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Junior Boys: Big Black Coat

The path hasn’t come to a sudden dead-end for the Junior Boys, a new route or crew is just…