Shane Nelken has been hanging out in the background of the Vancouver indie pop scene for years now, most notably helping out the New Pornographers as a multi-instrumentalist for hire. That band’s drummer, Kurt Dahle, returns the favor, co-producing and sitting in behind the trap set on Nelken’s impressive debut, Heaven Is for Easy Girls. The Awkward Stage is less a band and more an umbrella for Nelken and whoever he’s brought in to lend their skills on the dozen tight tracks found here. Not that Nelken needs much help, because he’s got mad skills all his own, singing lead and backup, playing acoustic and electric guitars, laying down some fine keyboard parts, and holding down the low end on bass on several cuts. Frequent guests like violinist Kim Koch and Shaun Brodie on trumpet lend chunks of the record a lovely chamber pop feel, while other songs, like the excellent opener “The Morons Are Winning”, are a little more rocking and follow the power pop lead of, well, the New Pornographers. Without question, fans of that more established band would be the most likely converts to the Awkward Stage’s music, although Nelken is no copycat, finding his own niche. With smart lyrics, thoughtful arrangements, lots of hooks, and an early autumn mood, Heaven Is for Easy Girls is a sure winner for lovers of indie pop everywhere.
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