Monday, September 26, 2011


When bands cite their musical influences by name it is often a cheap exercise in piggy-backing on earlier achievements or claiming a lineage that patently does not exist. For Vancouver’s Shimmering Stars however it’s a rich confirmation of what you hear in the music – take out some of the fuzzy edges and ‘I’m Gonna Try’ perfectly recreates the innocence of The Everly Brothers, the rippling guitars and gliding, airy vocals of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ point to Del Shannon and the mournful tug of ‘Into The Sea’ or ‘Sun’s Going Down’ recalls the harmonies of The Beach Boys at their most introspective and melancholic. But ”Violent Hearts” and the EP that preceded it late last year are not simply bland retro-pop re-runs of an earlier era. The trio of Rory McClure, Andrew Dergousoff and Brent Sasaki capture the innocent desires and heart-on-the-sleeve yearning of late 50s and early 60s pop perfectly but imbue it with a lofi garage-rock feel: guitars that gently crunch and distort, bags of booming reverb and everything coated with a dusty fuzziness. Even when ‘Believe’ or ‘Sun’s Going Down’ aspire to the cavernous echo-chamber pop of Phil Spector at his most epic, you still feel they were recorded in a suburban Canadian garage rather than Gold Star studios. Don’t expect “Psychocandy” levels of distortion or spiky noise but there is a propulsive drive to some – most notably ‘East Van Girls’ - and a lyrical darkness that lifts Shimmering Stars further away from the preserved-in-amber, bygone dream-pop they revere.

The earlier EP came out in the UK in December which felt seasonally out of step. A late August release for “Violent Hearts” makes more sense for an album that captures both the freedom and romantic languor of summer plus the moment this turns to autumnal wistfulness and regret. Fouteen songs, all but one under two and half minutes, makes for a slender thirty minute running time. Surprisingly then there a few moments where the album does drag – the pacing of songs becomes over-familiar and occasionally those deep or darker feelings become lost in the reverb – but it remains a refreshing and absorbing listen. The names of the labels the band are on (Almost Musique in Europe, Hardly Art in North America) both suggest some musical deficit but overlook those few less memorable songs and there’s no doubt about the talent and song-writing skills here. Given how successfully they have mined this particular and plentiful seam for their debut, it will be fascinating to see how – and where - Shimmering Stars progress next.

Shimmering Stars Violent Hearts [BUY]

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