Potentially late to the neo-’60s revival sound in indie pop that has dominated newer bands’ catalogs in recent years, Vancouver’s Shimmering Stars offer a more somber interpretation of soda shop pop with their debut LP, Violent Hearts.
Both disarmingly daydreamy and canopied by a black cloud, these Canadians’ take on angst and love is a garage pop pairing of sweet and somber. Shimmering Stars’ bright guitars, restrained melodies, and melancholy doo-wop hearkens back to Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly-esque heartache, with a bolder snarl. Standout track “I”m Gonna Try” chronicles post-breakup super angst, as frontman Rory McClure grumbles over pulsing harmonies: Walking down the street and I wanna kill everyone I see/How come I dont like anyone that I meet/And despite my antipathy I am longing to be someone better/In my heart is a violence that I cannot dispel. Yeah, love sucks, but Shimmering Stars’ steady-paced and sugar-tinged retro sound serves as a balance to the sinister lyrics.
On first listen, the album’s mixing sounds echoey and muddled, but this approach steadily unfurls into vast gymnasium pop, deep with morose lyrics being repeated in a lovers lament. “Privilege” and “I Don’t Wanna Know” chug along, the innocent and nostalgic strums initially masking lyrics of longing and a lovesick haze. “Sabians” floats through reverb-heavy, harmony-drenched reverie, leading into the chiming drudgery of “Dancing to Music I Hate”.
The songs on Violent Hearts are short overall, the longest holding out at 2:56, but pack enough swinging teenage angst clasped in an arm wrestle with buoyant ’50s pop ooohs to charm you into repeated listens. It’s the perfect ode to ’50s and ’60s radio rock, polished for a jaded and apathetic audience. All in all, these newcomers’ sharp take on an oft-overdone style stands on its own– endearing, biting, and pretty damn catchy.
Essential Tracks: Im Gonna Try, East Van Girls, and Sabians