Cosmic Radio Station
It’s no surprise that the music of The Shifting Sands not only evokes what many think of now as “classic era” Flying Nun/Dunedin Sound bands – The Verlains, The Chills, The Clean, et al – after all Michael McLeod studied under Graham Downes at Otago University and has played in David Kilgour’s band – Kilgour returning the favour with cameos on the Shifting Sands records. But the latest album by The Sands really moves on and away from the 2B pencils and greaseproof paper. Sure, there are still (overt) references to the seaside squall of the South, those rainy-day rhythm guitar parts, and it’s impossible not to be influenced by those (choice) sounds. The closer here, a gorgeous, languid guitar-based instrumental could have been on any record Kilgour cared to place it on. But it’s here. And it sounds majestic. The comedown from a handful of cleverly written pieces before it – such as Dreaming To Keep Awake, which does the Dinosaur Jr-wants-to-be-Neil Young thing better than J Mascis has ever masked; hints too of that sound – though more the Barlow-end of Dino J – on the album’s opener, Waiting For The Sun.
Fuzzy, scuzzy pop guitars, that Noisyland magic our bands occasionally summon – this is what The Shifting Sands aesthetic seems to be, this is how it works for me. And, yes, sure, there are progressions and there are those drum parts that make you think of other bands, of other times – and mostly only bands from this land – but that’s quite okay with me. As much as All The Stars has a Bats-like gleam in its eye, it’s a great song in and of its self and – also – there are tunes like We All Fall Down which feels very second or third wave, more Superette or Stereo Bus than Bats or Chills.
The splatter-paint guitars across Making It Through might even remind of Straitjacket Fits’ glorious simmer, but what I dig the most with this album is how there’s not one track of filler. Ten songs, 39 minutes, I can spend the morning playing it on repeat. It’s a perfect sunny-day soundtrack – that’s probably what it shares (most) in common with the other great bands I’m naming here. Not so much the sound, as the feel. And the energy it gives off.
Magic album this. And much as I already loved The Shifting Sands this is a real step up. Not a foot wrong. Great stuff – I look forward to hearing the band perform this material live.