It’s 11 o’clock on a Saturday night. You’re lying in your bed, craving some late night music. You want something dreamy, but not Panda Bear dreamy; something minimal, but not Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy minimal; something that comfortably sits in the middle of it all. Try out Chad VanGaalen.
The Calgary singer/songwriter has been making awesome psych folk since 2001. After a few demos, he released his first official full-length Infiniheart in 2004, on Flemish Eye (it was re-released in 2005 on Sub Pop). Now, ten years and three other albums later (Skelliconnection in 2006, Soft Airplane in 2008, and Diaper Island in 2011), Chad VanGaalen has a stupendous new record: Shrink Dust.
On his latest, a 12-song package a little over 40 minutes long, VanGaalen tosses a salad of soothing acoustic treats spiced with cosmic tenderness.
The album starts with “Cut Off My Hands”, a serene folk ditty - despite the graphic opening line, “Cut off both my hands and threw them in the sand” - that gradually fills up with weird saxophone-sounding arpeggios and swirls. The album’s trippy lead single “Where Are You” follows, with dirtier production compared to the opener (if you enjoy dental porn, watch the song’s music video here) . Another lo-fi track, “Frozen Paradise,” sounds like a cross between Yoshimi-era Flaming Lips and the hazy singing style of Atlas Sound. On the breezy, slide-guitar filled songs “Weighed Sin” and “Hangman’s Son”, VanGaalen shows that he can also be an enchanting country musician.
Vangaalen knows how to make peaceful, otherworldly folk music, but he can really rock out too. With a collection of songs as eclectic, invigorating, and attractive as Shrink Dust, it’s a surprise that he’s so under the indie radar.
Along with Sun Kil Moon’s Benji and Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness, VanGaalen’s Shrink Dust is another great reason why 2014 will be a truly poppin’ year for indie folk music.
8.5 / 10
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