The Awkward Stage search for a style

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Shane Nelkin, the singer/songwriter behind the Awkward Stage, has collaborated extensively with A.C. Newman, acting as the lead Pornographer‘s backing guitarist on his recent solo tour. It’s no surprise, then, that Nelkin’s work with the Awkward Stage recalls the joyous energy of the New Pornographers, rife with buzzing keyboards and sunny pop hooks.

Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights is the Awkward Stage’s second album, and it features more of the sprightly power pop that first got the group signed to the Canadian indie powerhouse Mint Records. Surprisingly, however, it’s the album’s quieter moments that pack the biggest punch—”We Dreamt of House” is a sombre ballad, its sparse arrangement featuring little more than Nelkin’s acoustic guitar and his heavily reverbed voice. “I Hurt the Ones That Love Me” is similarly powerful, beginning with a minimalist arrangement that later gives way to pounding piano and chirping horns.

In addition to bouncy power pop and acoustic folk ballads, Slimming Mirrors contains forays into overdriven punk (“Anime Eyes”) and even heavy metal riffing (“Mini Skirt of Xmas Lights”). Of the 15 tracks, three are brief instrumental interludes, but rather than tying the album’s disparate styles, they only break up the flow even further—”(Than)” is a piano/violin duet that sounds like nothing else the band has ever done. So as good as the songs on Slimming Mirrors are, they never coalesce to form a truly great album. The Awkward Stage would be best to choose a style and stick with it—based on the quality of the acoustic tracks, let’s hope that the Awkward Stage goes folk for album number three.
 
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