Best New Albums of 2013! #9: Young Galaxy – Ultramarine

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011′s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010′s list, click here.

#9: Young Galaxy – Ultramarine (Paper Bag Records)

Truthfully, I wasn’t all that upset or even shocked by the Polaris Prize this year. The ballot was about as good as it usually gets, which is to say there was a couple good records, a couple just okay ones and a couple big snubs, too. It was cool to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor win, especially because they didn’t bother showing up and immediately gave the award money away.

Still, I was a little bummed that Young Galaxy’s Ultramarine, my favourite record on the ballot, didn’t win. Even though it came out near the beginning of the 2013, it’s been in heavy rotation on my MacBook all year, especially the hazy New Summer and the upbeat Fall For You. The music’s alternately longing and uncertain.  An example: “Meet me by the river,” sings Catherine McCandless on New Summer, “Lets go for a ride, with the windows down and the stereo loud.” But it’s not just any summer, it’s the last one. It’s an apocalyptic romantic vision. Just look at the video, with its explosions and destruction played out in slow motion.

Musically, the record’s a leap forward for the band. In the past, their music still had a dreamy quality but sounded rougher: check the classic rock-indebted guitar riffs on Come and See, off their self-titled 2007 album. Later, they moved to a vaguely dance-rock sound for Shapeshifter. Here, they’ve combined these elements into a cohesive whole: their music is as hazy, as otherworldly as ever, but they’ve incorporated new rhythms into it, too. Keyboards add a new layer to their music, but never dominate. Same goes for the dance-inspired rhythms: it’s a catchier album than their previous records, but it’s never something you’ll spin at a club. Still, it’s something I’ve been drawn too all year. Not only is Ultramarine one of the strongest albums of the year, but Young Galaxy might be Canada’s best-kept secret.




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