2011 marked something of a shift for Montreal’s Young Galaxy.
The musical project had formed six years earlier on the west coast as a duo: Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless. They moved operations to Montreal shortly afterwards and beefed up their membership to record their first two albums. The 2007 self-titled debut was very much guitar-based, dream pop in the vein of Luna and Spiritualized and its successor, 2009’s “Invisible republic”, added a touch of post-punk to darken things up a bit. Though both were very, very good, neither album gained a lot of traction with the buying public.
For the third record, Ramsay and McCandless recorded it in Montreal with Stephen Kamp on bass and then, when it was finished, they shipped it off to Sweden, giving Studio’s Dan Lissvik free rein to make it over. It was released on Paper Bag Records in February of 2011 and on first listen, Lissvik’s touch was salient and indelible. The music was still rooted in dream pop and built upon the shared vocals of its two principals but the sound was more dance-inflected and somehow bigger in range. It also allowed more space for the McCandless’s beautiful vocals to grow. Indeed, it was here that she first began to emerge as frontwoman, taking on the lion’s share of the singing responsibilities.
“Peripheral visionaries” is track six from “Shapeshifting”. Ramsay and McCandless call and response on the ‘verses’ and come together for the ‘choruses’. And I put those in air quotes because the song doesn’t feel like it fits traditional song structure. It just sort of moves along in its own universe. Pulsing and swaying like an organic and ghostly thing built out of mechanical parts. The vocals even sound roboticized through most of the song, that is, up to the point where they come together at the end in an ecstatic and joyous chant: “We have seen tears from the eyes of God.” It’s a thing of beauty.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.