Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Hardly Art
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Noise Pop
On their debut album, Violent Hearts, Vancouver trio Shimmering Stars delve deeply into the ghostly sounds of 1950s and early-'60s pop and come up with a sound both older than a scratchy old 45 and as current as the latest MP3 you downloaded but didn’t listen to. The guitar-bass-drums sound the group uses is simple as can be, nimbly running through familiar chord changes as the vocals (usually sung by guitarist Rory McClure but bolstered by drummer Andrew Dergousoff and bassist Brent Sasaki) float over the top like melancholy clouds. Applying this effectively direct approach to some very catchy and sweetly sad and romantic songs, they then dip the entire thing in buckets and buckets of cavernous reverb to give the record a pleasingly warm and shambolic feel.
Shimmering Stars are a trio from British Columbia who certainly have the sounds of the past down pat. The band was founded after its figurehead, guitarist Rory McClure, binged on old performance footage of the Everly Brothers. The swaying melodies and dippy, falsetto-speckled vocals on the band's debut LP, Violent Hearts, are the marks of that influence.
Some time around the turn of the year, a chance encounter with Shimmering Stars’ gorgeous single ‘I’m Gonna Try’ led me to expect that 2011 would see their reverb-drenched Sixties harmonies take over the blogosphere. Like most of my predictions, this hasn’t (as yet) come to fruition, and the band slipped back beneath the radar somewhat until the announcement of Violent Hearts, the Vancouver trio’s debut album. Still, the year is only two thirds down, so maybe they can still make a late break for that catch-all internet domination I anticipated.
I can't tell if Shimmering Stars' last.fm biography is the work of a sassy publicist or a pimply internet troll. It contains a gem of a line that sums up just about everything you need to know about the band: "Shimmering Stars are sexually repressed and puritanically correct. But they are eager to share some of their nasty thoughts with you." The Canadian dream-pop trio's debut LP Violent Hearts is heavily indebted to the hollow, ringing sound and dramatic arrangements of 1950s and early 1960s pop music.
Shimmering Stars is probably the most aptly-named band I have heard in some time. With buckets of reverb washing over Rory McClure’s vocals and guitars, and Andrew Degousoff’s drums echoing throughout as if being played in a barn, the band establishes a hazy, dreamy — yes, shimmering — sound from the get-go. The songs are faintly reminiscent of 1950s doo-wop, with simple melodies and rich vocal harmonies.
Potentially late to the neo-’60s revival sound in indie pop that has dominated newer bands’ catalogs in recent years, Vancouver’s Shimmering Stars offer a more somber interpretation of soda shop pop with their debut LP, Violent Hearts. Both disarmingly daydreamy and canopied by a black cloud, these Canadians’ take on angst and love is a garage pop pairing of sweet and somber. Shimmering Stars’ bright guitars, restrained melodies, and melancholy doo-wop hearkens back to Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly-esque heartache, with a bolder snarl.
From the first moment of Violent Hearts, Shimmering Stars seem to have produced an album with some nice melodies, some fun guitar work, and a smattering of reverb. Most of that stays true throughout a listen, but the reverb piles up over the 30 minutes the album takes to run its course. As a result, any delight taken with the nice use of melody and the playful guitar work is quickly thrust aside as the oppressive sound continues to build.