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Album Review: Young Galaxy's Ultramarine

Paper Bag Records

The early songs of Young Galaxy are slow-burners, lots of feedback and echo and space. But even then, they’ve always sounded like they secretly wanted to accompany the end credits of a John Hughes teen drama. To be the poignant punctuation to some grand statement about something that a lot of adults go on to realize wasn’t so grand after all. The great achievement of a good pop song is that it can say in three and a half minutes what might take 90 minutes in a film.

Late last year the band released a single, and the b-side titled “Youth Is Wasted On The Young” so wonderfully shouts-out a Velvet Underground song by name. It’s so good because the specificity of that reference lends credibility to the speaker, and you can feel the connection between her and the person she’s talking to.

While each subsequent Young Galaxy release has always leaned more pop, that single seemed to indicate that they were set to go all-in on it, and their fourth album Ultramarine is the result of that commitment.

A lot of credit for this shimmering sound is due to the Swedish electronic producer Dan Lissvik, who produced the Montreal band’s last effort as well. The difference this time is that they recorded the album at Lissvik’s studio in Gothenburg rather than passing tracks back and forth between continents. It’s strange, because technology is supposed eliminate those geographical obstacles, but you can sense his presence here.

Another difference on Ultramarine is the exclusive use of Catherine McCandless on vocals. That’s a smart choice because the songs she sang were always counted among the band’s highlights.

As summer approaches there will be lots of kids graduating and staring down the reality of leaving their homes and friends. It’s prime time to work out soundtracks to one’s life and think about this question: if your life right now is the end of a movie, what song plays it out? Ultramarine has plenty to choose from.

Ultramarine is out now on Paper Bag Records.

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