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Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights

The Awkward Stage

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Album Review

It was easy to imagine that Shane Nelken had picked up a few useful pointers from A.C. Newman, various members of Sparrow, and the New Pornographers, and other luminaries in the Vancouver indie pop scene he'd worked with when he cut his first album as leader of the Awkward Stage, 2006's Heaven Is for Easy Girls. But the strength of the group's second album, 2008's Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights, makes it clear Nelken and his bandmates have more than enough talent and fine ideas to create a glorious pop album of their own. Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights opens with the atmospheric "The Sun Goes Down On Girlsville," adorned with spectral guitars, strings, and a slightly-Robert Smith-ish vocal from Nelken, but when the electric guitars and horns kick in on the next tune, the high-strutting "Your Heart Serves Only You," later making way for the punk/glam hybrid of "Anime Eyes" and the evocative chamber pop of "Skeletal Blonde," the Awkward Stage demonstrates that they have a firm command of many distinct flavors of clever and well-crafted pop music, and can make them come to life in the studio with consummate craft and no small degree of enthusiasm. Nelken wrote all 15 tracks here and handles guitars, keys, and even bass on these sessions, while he's ably assisted by Tygh Runyan on guitar and keys, Chris Mitchell on trumpet, and the rhythm section of Michael Boegh (bass) and Tony Koelwyn (drums), and together they give the music an impressive sweep and sense of epic scale; producer Howard Redekopp can make these performances sound epochal ("Only Good Days Caught on Camera") or intimate ("True Love on Three with Feeling") and knows which mood to reach for each time. Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights is an intelligent and sophisticated pop album that manages to achieve most of its not inconsiderable ambitions, and confirms the Awkward Stage rank with the best indie pop acts in the Northwest today.

Biography

Formed: 2005 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cana

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Not only does just about everyone in the New Pornographers have their own bands, it's getting to the point where the members of those offshoot bands have their own projects. Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Shane Nelken is not actually a member of the New Pornographers, but he played piano on leader A.C. Newman's solo record The Slow Wonder. He's also the bassist in Sparrow, the band led by Newman's former bandmate Jason Zumpano, and in Vancouver Nights, a Belle & Sebastian-like...
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Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights, The Awkward Stage
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