10 July, 2013 in Music Reviews
Former Shallow vocalist and her bass-playing spouse release another collection of moody pop songs with ‘Northern Lights & Southern Skies’
hallow’s 1997 album High Flyin’ Kid Stuff is one of the great lost albums. A perfect synthesis of grunge and shoegaze, with a mournful vocal delivery that recalls Cranes’ Alison Shaw, it’s a near-travesty that it’s unknown to so many when it should be a staple of late 90s alternative rock. The Capsules is what Shallow vocalist Julie Shields and her bassist husband Jason did next, when they decided to remove the cloak of grunge-y distortion from their repertoire and replace it with glistening electronica.
On their fourth studio album Northern Lights & Southern Skies they prove that they still have the knack for producing moody and brilliant pop songs. Opener Across The Sky has a little of Joy Division or Arcade Fire about it – Julie’s trademark vocal pathos, with enough sweetness to keep it from dipping into the mire, and Jason’s superb bassline are evident throughout. As introductions go, it’s pretty impressive.
Elsewhere on the record the influence of The Cranes is felt on the excellent Time Will Only Tell and the moody From The Start. Further highlights include the Shallow-like All At Once, the Cardigans-esque With Signs Repeating and the melodic, post-rock of closer Magnetic Fields.
Northern Lights & Southern Skies doesn’t quite have the timeless, classic ring to it that made High Flyin’ Kid Stuff such a glorious surprise on discovery. This, though, can be put down to precisely that lack of surprise – given the Shields’ previous output you expect Northern Lights & Southern Skies to surprise you with its quality, when in fact the high standard of its music is exactly what you’d expected.
Verdict: Moody pop that recalls The Cranes