Three years ago, The Hubble Space Telescope caught sight of the universe’s youngest known galaxy, the 500 million year old I Zwicky 18. That may seem beyond ancient, but to give a comparative gauge, the Milky Way is approximately 13.6 billion years old. Given the nature of galactic formation and life spans, 500 million years doesn’t seem all that outrageous. Canada’s Young Galaxy is far younger than any of the sky’s celestial bodies, however, having been around only a couple years. They’re also the youngest band (based on how long they’ve existed, not how old each member is) on the Arts & Crafts label, which could cause a bit of pressure for the group, given the sort of big name acts preceding them, some with stellar names of their own. Young Galaxy is a unique act on the roster, however, providing dreamy, space-age melodies that make for an exciting debut and another reason to believe in the Ontario label.
Formed by Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless, Young Galaxy divert from the path tread upon by prior Arts & Crafts trailblazers Stars and Broken Social Scene, eschewing dense, immediate pop-gazer symphonies in favor of spacious, dreamy pop. At their most starkly open, such as on “The Sun’s Coming Up and My Plane’s Going Down,” they recall early Low in their slow ascent. At their most energetic, they’re still awash in lazily billowing effects, coming across more like a streamlined British act such as The Verve or Swervedriver. That said, they owe far more to early ’90s alt-rock than their contemporaries, save for the Britpop leaning Dears.
The simplicity of the progressions beneath Young Galaxy’s gauzy arrangements are what make their songs so endearing. At their core, the group seems to be more concerned with writing accessible, enjoyable pop songs—and they do just that. The duo specializes in hazy anthems, even starting the record off with one, the Portishead-like, Bauhaus nodding “Swing Your Heartache.” Beginning like a melancholy dirge, the song doesn’t really pick up until the chorus, in which Ramsay and McCandless sweetly harmonize the song’s title, reprising and perfecting the refrain again in the swelling, climactic outro. At six minutes, it’s a bit long for a single, but the lengthy build-up is well worth the patient wait. “No Matter How Hard You Try” is a bit more straightforward, a breezy, cosmic rocker that does proud the driver of another Galaxie, Dean Wareham.
“Lazy Religion” resurrects the tried-and-true formula of psychedelia and gospel, a trick that Jason Spaceman perfected in Spiritualized. The execution here is not nearly as dramatic, but still quite nice in its slow, hand-clappable catchiness. Still plodding at tree-sap’s pace, the wonderful “Wailing Wall” has a Church-like gossamer, melodic and beautiful, the kind of song I could almost swear was on an old mixtape of mine, that is if it weren’t recorded in the past year. The second half of the album loses a bit of the dramatic power of the first, but still offers some nice songs, such as the (surprisingly) peppy “Searchlight” and mighty, rocking “Lost in the Call.”
Closing track “The Alchemy Between Us” is a decent and pretty track, but the soaring “Come And See” seems like the natural choice to end the album, finishing Young Galaxy’s debut off on a high note and an uplifting climax. Alas, it’s about two tracks too long—a minor complaint, really. This galaxy is young; they’ve got plenty of time to combine their energy into bigger and brighter stars.
Luna – Pup Tent
The Verve – Urban Hymns
Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.