by Grady Mitchell | On August 2nd at The Electric Owl, Vancouver quartet Shimmering Stars will offer a sneak peek of their second album, Bedrooms of the Nation, coming out August 13. Compared to their first record, Violent Hearts, Bedrooms is a vast, howling sound. Guitars are stacked atop each other – sometimes fifty tracks on a single song, says guitarist and singer Rory McClure – to build a swirling hurricane noise. This change of direction throws back to the band’s early days. Before it was an album, Bedrooms of the Nation was the group’s original name, back when they played louder, brasher punk.
The Stars are fascinated by the music of the fifties and sixties, particularly the gap between what the artists sang and how they lived their lives. Acts like The Beach Boys spun some wonderful harmonies, but their lives were anything but. “The parameters around pop music at that time were very limiting,” Rory says. “You couldn’t say what you actually felt or were experiencing if it didn’t conform to pretty traditional themes. So I was always curious: what would they write if they were actually free to write about what they wanted?”
Probably something a lot like a Shimmering Stars song. The sock hop influence shows up in the blended harmonies and bouncy melodies that appear in even the most shadowy tracks, a sort of through-line piercing the noise. Even when a song like Shadow Visions launches into a thunderous third act, it’s guided by a jaunty guitar line and a ghostly bah-bah-bah backup vocal. Much like the night sky, there are speckles of light among the dark (if you’ll forgive a guy a True Detective reference). Mixing pop techniques with experimental elements is nothing new, they say. They point out guys like Frank Black and Kurt Cobain who built experimental sounds around a core pop sensibility. “I think no matter how dark or noisy the music gets,” drummer Andrew Dergousoff says, “Rory’s got a secret, guilty pop affiliation.”
“You can indulge the fringe styles,” Rory adds, “but it’s got to have a melody.”
Lyrically, things are as dark as they were on Hearts, but the songs take an angle more philosophical than personal: “Things that expand beyond my own, sad-bastard experiences,” Rory says. The mood lightens as the album progresses, culminating in the cathartic closer I Found Love.
The addition of bassist Elisha Rembold allowed Brent Sasaki to switch to guitar (his playing style, according to his bandmates, “has been described as ‘nervous piano.'”) Not only did that free them to write chunkier songs, but markedly improved their live performances, too, the band agrees.
That’s something you can decide for yourself on August 2nd. Until then, you can hear a few tracks off Bedrooms of the Nation here.