Best tunes of 2011: #16 Young Galaxy “Peripheral visionaries”

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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.

Live music galleries: Young Galaxy [2012]

(I got the idea for this new series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop*. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

Young Galaxy live at Osheaga in 2012

Artist: Young Galaxy
When: August 4th, 2012
Where: Trees stage, Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, Montreal
Context: Young Galaxy played their last show for the foreseeable future this past weekend in Ottawa, having recently announced an indefinite hiatus. Unfortunately, I was unable to make the show because I was in Toronto for the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, so instead, I’ll reminisce a bit and post pics about the time I saw them six years ago at Osheaga. It was one of the excruciating schedule conflicts I had to navigate that weekend: see The Raveonettes for the first time or see Young Galaxy in their hometown. I’ve never regretted my decision. They’re not only one of my favourite Canadian bands but one of my faves from all time and they’ve always been great live. This performance was the year after “Shapeshifting”, their first collaboration with Dan Lissvik, was released and signalled a shift towards a more electronic sound. Brilliant show, all told. 
Point of reference song:
We have everything

Stephen Ramsay of Young Galaxy
Stephen Kamp of Young Galaxy
Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy
Matt Shapiro of Young Galaxy
Stephen Ramsay of Young Galaxy
Andrea Silver and Stephen Kamp of Young Galaxy
Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy
Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy