Young Galaxy's 2011 release, Shapeshifting, finds the Canadian ensemble shifting from the atmospheric electronica-infused indie pop they perfected on previous outings to a more mature, ambitious brand of '80s-influenced sophisti-pop. Having both female and male lead vocals has always been a particularly distinctive and effective plan of attack for the band, and while Shapeshifting is no exception, it is Catherine McCandless' burnished, warm, and controlled voice that garners most of the album's focus. A commanding presence on record with an almost ritualistic, hypnotic delivery, McCandless brings to mind nothing less than a slightly more arch take on late-'80s Carly Simon -- think "Let the River Run" from the Working Girl soundtrack and you aren't far off. For his part, singer/guitarist Stephen Ramsay also delivers some of his best performances to date with his softer, more lo-fi croon adding textural interest throughout the album. Lyrically, the songs on Shapeshifting are intelligently poetic, often visual in scope, and find the band touching on an array of themes from Native American folklore to scientific theory. To these ends, tracks like the midtempo ballad "The Angels Are Weeping" and anthemic "We Have Everything" stand up to the best of bands like Roxy Music and the Killers for mixing synth pop and dance-rock uplift. Similarly engaging are such cuts as the stark David Sylvian-meets-Kate Bush-sounding "For Dear Life" and the lightly funky, R&B-inflected "Peripheral Visionaries." Elsewhere, Young Galaxy reveal their more high-minded art rock ambitions on the impressionistic and cinematic title track and, perhaps unknowingly, tap into the sci-fi pop culture Zeitgeist with the swirling, enigmatic non-Natalie Portman-related "B.S.E." (Black Swan Effect). Sexy, transformative, and utterly impressive, Shapeshifting is a not simply a landmark album for Young Galaxy, but an unexpected joy to listen to again and again.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar