On October 13, 2007, I went to see Young Galaxy and The Besnard Lakes (who appeared at number 10 in this list) in a double headliner show at the now defunct Zaphod Beeblebrox. After the incredible first set by Jace Lasek and company and just before being blown away by Young Galaxy, I wandered up to the merch table to get myself a physical copy of this debut, self-titled album. As we exchanged cash for CD, I told vocalist Catherine McCandless, in all honesty, that her band’s was easily my favourite album of the year. And obviously, that hasn’t changed in the decade that has since passed.
The group was formed originally as a duo by ex-Stars touring guitarist Stephen Ramsay and the aforementioned Catherine McCandless. They recorded the debut with friends in Jace Lasek’s studio and filled out the band for touring purposes. If you listen to this one and compare it with the music they release these days, you’d hardly think they were the same band. Their latest material is more electronic with McCandless carrying the bulk of the vocal duties but when they were just starting out, they were still finding their proverbial voice and often McCandless shared the microphone with her partner in crime. “Young Galaxy” plays more with organic sounds but still riffs on the atmospheric, dream pop themes. Think Spiritualized, Luna, Slowdive, or even Pink Floyd, but perhaps more upbeat than all of these, and you’ll realize why I love this album.
I’ve never thought that critics gave this one its due. Sure, you can hear the influences plainly but Young Galaxy comes by it honestly. The music is often quite stunning and the vocals, something that’s not often a focus in dream pop, are quite beautiful throughout. I can’t recommend this album enough to anyone who’s never heard it. Of course, you can start with these, my three picks for you, but anything on the album is worth sampling.
“Come and see”: Some of you Canadian folks might recognize the exuberant chorus as the music used in an Alexander Keiths television commercial in the summer of 2009. “Come and see” is an upbeat number that starts off chugging with a danceable guitar line and urgent rhythm. Ramsay’s soft vocals are just there, just so, a slow dancer to a fast beat, subtle movements marking exclamations. And then, there is an explosion of confetti and stars at the chorus. I would guess it was that celebratory feel that caught the advertisers’ ears but this is a party not meant for this earth. It’s a cacophony that pulls you from your body to dance in the clouds.
“Outside the city”: One of the few tracks on the album that is solely left to the devices of Catherine McCandless’s vocals, the power hinting at the glory to come on future albums. Her voice here is bold and has muscle, similar to Siouxsie Sioux, and as mentioned before, a quality one might find rare in dream pop. It bears the weight of the song’s frantic beat and rocking guitars well. It is an escape from the humdrum of the Monday to Friday, a call to look beyond the concrete and steel of the city, an invitation to leave work there and find yourself. Let the “city release you” and find yourself “inside-out”. Yes!
“Swing your heartache”: As much as I love pretty much everything Young Galaxy has produced, this song still remains my absolute favourite of their tunes. Nowhere else will you hear the Spiritualized influence as much as you will here but at the same time, the song is uniquely theirs. It plods along, movement through movement, layers added and removed, an atmosphere created that is at once darkness and light. A lone guitar twists and turns over a plush bed of organ washes. Meanwhile, Ramsay and McCandless’s voices dance a slow romantic dance, each taking turns with the lead and complementing each other with absolute courtesy. They know that this thing called life is not easy but still a gift, and one not to waste. “It’s time for you and I to face the signs and realize that living’s a battle, for all the times we cried and told the lies and realized life’s not a rehearsal.” Pure awesome.
For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.