Release Date: Apr 23, 2013
Record label: Paper Bag Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Dream Pop
Young Galaxy are a Canadian national treasure. Formed by Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless in Vancouver, they are currently long-time residents of Montreal. A five-piece band, they’ve quietly put out three albums of apocalyptic balladry to date. Young Galaxy’s craft examines why: A: You need to dance B: Human social structures are fucked C: You should cherish those you love D: You need to dance Ultramarine is their fourth album and is as apocalyptic as anything they’ve released; but it also offers the biggest rays of sunshine.
1 of 2 2 of 2 On their fourth album, Young Galaxy's cosmic moniker makes total sense. Galloping drum machines on opening track Pretty Boy immediately transport you across rolling hills. On Fall For You you're on a tropical island, then on New Summer back in Canada watching the sun set on a late August beach day. The lyrics are earnest as all hell, but only once - on Hard To Tell - borderline twee.
Young Galaxy's 2013 album, Ultramarine, picks up on the mature, sophisticated pop sound the Canadian band developed for 2011's Shapeshifting. These are languid, gorgeously crafted tracks that find the band delving even deeper than on Shapeshifting into an atmospheric, slow-burn aesthetic that holds up on repeated listens. As with its predecessor, Ultramarine showcases lead singer Catherine McCandless' warm vocals framed in layers of chilly synthesizers.
This Montreal outfit is an overlooked treasure if ever there was one. They’ve made some wise moves to turn the emotional dial from despair to euphoria and have also managed to write some huge tracks here, the biggest in their catalogue yet. “New Summer” both cruises and collapses, the chorus ascensions creating soft shivers. “Privileged Poor” explosively underpins Catherine McCandless’ shamanistic croons with a rock-steady beat.
On paper, the sentiments that typify Young Galaxy’s fourth album Ultramarine are about as complex and challenging as a breezy, 80 degree day in late April: “I don’t care if the disbelievers don’t understand, you’re my pretty boy always. ” “When you a need a guide, I’ll light your way/ The beat is yours so let it play. ” “Feels like a dream tonight/ A little break in time as we howl at the moon.
Young Galaxy received an icy electronic makeover on 2011's Shapeshifting, courtesy of Studio's Dan Lissvik, and the group opted to stick with the Swedish producer for the follow-up. Unlike their previous collaboration, which was conducted remotely via Skype, the band recorded Ultramarine with Lissvik in Gothenburg, and the results are once again sonically stunning. The lush, rhythm-oriented arrangements are gorgeously constructed, with standout moments including the touches of barroom piano on the funky "Out the Gate Backwards" and the percussive, 16-bit-sounding samples on "Privileged Poor." The focus is the production rather than the songs, and Ultramarine is sadly missing the killer choruses required for a great pop album.
With their third record, 2011’s Shapeshifting, it seemed Montreal fivesome Young Galaxy had hit their stride after a rather lackluster first two albums. The moody, languid synths of tracks like “Blown Minded,” buttressed by danceable beats, suited lead singer Catherine McCandless’s enigmatic alto. The album rewarded multiple listens, leaving interest piqued about what the band would do next.
Ultramarine, the fourth album by Young Galaxy, sets a high bar for itself with its opening song, “Pretty Boy”. The track opens with a simple, catchy synth loop and an insistent kick drum beat, and then adds a pretty counter-loop to the main loop that fades in and out as the song goes along. Catherine McCandless’ smooth vocals pile on top of the loops with simple verses and a warm, inviting chorus: “And I know you feel isolated / And I feel what you won’t say / I don’t care if the disbelievers don’t understand / You’re my pretty boy, always.” Snare drum beats and string accompaniments round out the song, but really, the two loops and McCandless’ vocals are all the track needs.
To call Ultramarine a simple dream pop confection would be a disservice. Astral and poetic though it may be, the restrictive labels of genre serve more to pigeonhole than categorize an album of this magnitude and thought. A heavenly amalgam of disco nouvelle, ethereal synthesizers, and the ceremonial voice of now sole vocalist, Catherine McCandless, Ultramarine contains all of the necessary elements to send it beyond the stratosphere, into the celestial realm that Young Galaxy’s name lays claim to.