Tuesday, March 15, 2011


 As what once was frozen begins to melt and winter slides into spring, many are affected by damp spirits and soaked shoes. Music therapy is a surefire cure for seasonal sorrow. So if you're saddened by the elusiveness of sunny springtime weather; snuggle up with these sanguine songs.

You'll Find A Way by Santigold

 Santi White and John Hill originally recorded under the pseudonym Santogold but swapped an "O" for the "I" after the threat of a lawsuit from the makers of the 1985 movie Santo Gold's Blood Circus. Their eponymous debut album is awash with feel good anthems. Also see Lights Out, Unstoppable and Say Aha.

Lasso by Phoenix

 This French outfit first assembled as cover band playing in bars and cafes. After adopting their current moniker, the band, led by Thomas Mars who is married to Sofia Coppola, got a gig as Air's backing band. Their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix beat out the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Depeche Mode to claim the 2010 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. I would say the album is more electronic than alternative; yet the optimistic offerings Phoenix delivers remain winners regardless of genre. Also see Girlfriend and 1901.

No Nostalgia by AgesandAges

 This seven member band from Portland, Oregon released their debut album, Alright, You Restless, last month. Their jam band sound and sing-a-long style makes for songs that are as secure and warm as a group bear hug. While they maintain they are not a cult, they are hoping their rapidly increasing fan base will organize as one. I imagine they would be devotees of hand claps and harmonies.

Summertime Clothes by Animal Collective

 The collaborative and experimental group known as Animal Collective has been kicking around for a decade. Yet it was their most recent album, The Merriweather Post Pavilion, that proved to be the roar heard around the world. The band's four members, Avey Tare (David Porter), Deakin (Josh Dibb), Geologist (Brian Weitz) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), are fluid with their contributions. All have side and/or solo projects but Animal Collective remains the most successful of all of their musical outfits.

Don't Give Up by Noisettes

 Don't Give Up is a feel good track which can also act as motivational music. Noisettes fuse funk, punk, rock and soul into a truly original sound. Their 2007 debut What's the Time Mr. Wolf? made in on to my best of '07 list. Their follow up Wild Young Hearts while more soulful than rock is still strong enough to merit a listen.

Golden Phone by Micachu & the Shapes

 Highly unorthodox Mica Levi has captivated audiences in her native UK by utilizing extraordinary instruments such as a vacuum cleaner and broken bottles. Superstar fans of hers include Bjork and Animal Collective. While Mica says she's "not totally behind" her debut album Jewellery, English music fans lapped up the album like kindergartners slurping spilled cola. When Jewellery wasn't nominated for the Mercury Prize an outpouring of criticism slammed the nomination process. Regardless of the controversy, no one can deny that Golden Phone is a song that will warm up the dampest of spirits.

Multiply & Divide by the Soviettes

 The band's name came from a "tip" a customer gave singer/guitarist Annie Holoien as she waited tables in St. Paul, Minnesota. In lieu of payment he offered the name The Soviettes for her band. That was a decade ago and after three well received LPs, the band went on semi-permanent hiatus in 2006.
Their music is usually short and speedy and at the height of their popularity the foursome managed to perform in all fifty states in a span of three months. Their myspace page hints that they may reassemble for shows; as they did in 2010.
After the Soviettes' hiatus Holoien and Danny Henry formed Awesome Snakes. Holoien recently joined The God Dam Doo Wop Band and Maren "Sturgeon" Macosko plays in The Gateway District. Suzy Sharp is now the bass player for That's Incredible. 

This Twist by Roxy Epoxy & the Rebound 

 Roxy Epoxy's Bandaids on Bullet Holes is made up of unusual, upbeat, new wave-inspired tracks guaranteed to put the listener in a good mood. For more about former Epoxies member Roxy Epoxy see my post on anti-social songs. Also check out Roxy's Ego Hour, her radio show on KPSU, Portland's college radio station.

Hardcore Girls by The Count & Sinden featuring Rye Rye 

 Perhaps best known as MIA's protege, the remarkably refreshing Rye Rye's career got a jump start when she left rap on DJ Blaqstarr's voicemail. Dubstep and grime producers The Count and Sinden tapped her for this single and also co-produced her forthcoming debut Go! Pop! Bang! along with Diplo, Blaqstarr and MIA. 

I Feel Alive by 33Hz

 The members of NYC's 33Hz love disco (and cheesy video effects, see below.) Their electro-heavy sound may have played better decades ago, yet this strobe-lit song still has the power to perk up sagging spirits.

Ba Ba BaBa Ba Ba Well Anyway by Oh No Ono

 This Danish band's style is deviant and daring. Malthe Fischer's vocals definitely diverge from what would be considered the norm for North American music listening audiences. His frightening falsetto might turn some people off, but if you prefer uncommonly hyper arrangements, Oh No Ono's 2006 album Yes may be what you've been seeking. Their most recent album, Egg, was released last year.

My Rainbow Valley by Dolly Mixture

 Formed in 1978 in Cambridge, Dolly Mixture was first conceived as a joke. Three teenage schoolmates, Debsy Wykes, Hester Smith and Rachel Bor, loved the dreamy sounds of the '60s and as a response to the popularity of post-punk decided to tell people they were in whimsical pop band. When they began receiving requests for live performances, the girls picked up instruments and began practicing in earnest. They found some success backing Captain Sensible yet they released just one full length album, 1983's Demonstration Tapes. My Rainbow Valley is typical of Dolly Mixture's gleeful sound. If you can overcome the cooing backing vocals the track will subtly slap you with a sweet smile.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


This article originally appeared on Soundproofmagazine.com. Visit Young Galaxy's official site for tour dates.

Photo courtesy of Young Galaxy.
  With their latest album Shapeshifting, Montréal based trio Young Galaxy have made a conscious decision to move in another direction.
 Shapeshifting combines upbeat drum arrangements and electronic-based melodies- which may seem like a strange choice as their last album, 2009's indie rock-based Invisible Republic, was long listed for the Polaris Music Prize. However this time around Stephen Ramsay says the band, which also features Catherine McCandless and Stephen Kamp, resolved to challenge their own musicality; which is why the sublime sounds on Shapeshifting are noticeably divergent from the music found on Invisible Republic.

"We saw ourselves making similar choices every time we would make music. For this record we wanted to move away from the easy choices," Ramsay recalls. "So the evolution in some ways was a sort of very calculated choice. To move away from the way we made music in the past. So everything changed from the process of how we approached the writing to how we recorded it. The whole process of how we make music has been inverted in a way. So what you see is almost a negative impression of what we used to do and how we used to make music."

 Ramsay and McCandless founded Young Galaxy in 2005 while residing in their native Vancouver. Their debut EP Swing Your Heartache was released in 2006 and Ramsay says Young Galaxy's inception was marred by hesitation and fickleness. Ramsay and McCandless began as friends, eventually becoming an item, and Ramsay encouraged McCandless to rock the mic.

 "When the project began it was really just me working out my own initial interest in writing songs," Ramsay said. "Catherine was quite a shy singer and I always tried to get her involved. I knew she could sing but she wouldn't sing in front of people. We didn't really have any ambition. We just wanted to make music and write together. It was a good exercise for us as friends and as a couple. What you hear a lot in our early attempts at songs is me singing, but now Catherine sings mostly. At that time she was very shy and not as involved in the whole process. It was a gradual thawing out of our creativity until we were equals and that is where we are now."

 When Ramsay was invited to play with Montréal super group Stars, the duo made the move to La Belle Province. In addition to the opportunity with Stars, Ramsay chose Montréal for the opportunities the city offers.

"We were trying to think of somewhere exciting to move to within Canada. Montréal is kind of the anti-thesis to Vancouver," Ramsay laughs. "The community and the city are ones we love and I think we will stay here for a long time."

 Ramsay credits Stars with kick starting Young Galaxy's career and in 2007 they released their self-titled full length debut on Arts & Crafts. Yet after their self-titled release, they were told they were a losing endeavor economically and went independent with Invisible Republic, which would eventually find distribution through Fontana North. When Invisible Republic was long listed for the Polaris Music Prize, no one was more surprised than Ramsay.

 "It didn't matter in a way," Ramsay said of their Polaris nomination. "We didn't need validation but in a way it was validating. It wasn't a question of whether the record was any good. It was more just the fact that not many people had heard it. So when that came along it came a long time after the record came out and we had no expectations."

 Fan's expectations for Shapeshifting are high as Dan Lissvik, of the band Studio, produced the album over nine months in Sweden.

 "We knew he would be able to hone it into something that was ready for listeners," Ramsay said.
Witness a supernova on the stage, featuring a pregnant McCandless, when Young Galaxy comes to a city near you in March. Their tour includes stops in Ottawa, Toronto and American dates.

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