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The Awkward Stage: 'The Sun Goes Down On Girlsville'

The Awkward Stage, featuring the music of Shane Nelkin
The Awkward Stage, featuring the music of Shane Nelkin

Listen to Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights, the sophomore release from Vancouver, B.C.'s The Awkward Stages, and it's obvious the pop band weaves an overarching theme through each track. Though the songs on the album vary stylistically — its three gentle instrumental interludes contrast greatly with an energized song like "Hey, Modern School Girl," driven by its drum beat and guitar riffs — they all offer a glimpse into what life is like for those who never left their awkward stage behind in junior high, and are still determining their worth.

Led by vocalist and songwriter Shane Nelken, who once spent time as a supporting musician for A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers, the album begins with the moody but lovely "The Sun Goes Down in Girlsville." The lyrics reveal a narrator who is still struggling to define himself: "I know myself less the older I get," Nelken croons.

Later, on "True Love On Three With Feeling," Nelken sings "Hide me in your hair 'cause I can't bear to go out there and face the world." But even though Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights features plenty of downer lyrics, the relatively upbeat music keeps it interesting. "True Love On Three With Feeling" is actually a jaunty duet, backed by trumpet and a peppy chorus.

Similarly, "I Hurt the Ones That Love Me" is full of lines that seem plucked from the school of Morrissey, but the tune ends with a surprisingly cheerful repetition of "Fear and anger baby is what I got / Fear and anger baby is all I got," while lighthearted, jazzy piano plays behind the crescendo of voices.

The Awkward Stage will take its music on the road this fall with a Canadian tour, capped by a stateside appearance at CMJ in New York.

Download this song in the Second Stage podcast.

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Tamara Vallejos