Who: If the name is any indication, Vancouver’s the Awkward Stage will be around for awhile. “Forget your age, forget you’re clever; The Awkward Stage, it lasts forever,” is the motto of Awkward leader and multi-tasking man-about-town Shane Nelken. And as disheartening as this notion may seem, this is where Nelken draws his inspiration. “Youth was a war,” he says. “Youth crushed me. All I could do was play music and goof off to cope.” Subsequently, Nelken has long been a musical ally to such Vancouver indie mainstays as the New Pornographers’ Carl Newman (among others) while simultaneously building a film career, both as actor and composer. And, since all that failed to keep him sufficiently busy, he created the pop music entity the Awkward Stage.

What’s the Deal? The Awkward Stage’s first album, Heaven is for Easy Girls, debuted this week on Vancouver’s Mint Records. The disc is a buffet of pop music flavors culled from Nelken’s multiple talents and friends in the Vancouver scene, and it showcases his ability to craft earnest songs that aren’t too sweet. New Pornographer Kurt Dahle engineered and co-produced the album, and you can hear scraps of the veteran pop band’s sound spanning the entire work. Still, Nelken is creating his own sound here, especially with songs like “The Circus Ends in Tears (Pachrymosa),” a musical epic complete with horns, and “Sad Girl Radio,” a sweetly melancholic tune that could have been composed for a sixties prom date gone wrong.

Fun Fact: Nelken’s parents are both psychiatrists, something that could explain his desire to analyze his youth — and his own mind. “My parents being in the field of mental health reminds me of the parable of the cobbler’s children having no shoes,” Nelken tells SPIN.com. And if his music career doesn’t work out, he can always return to his day job: Both Nelken and his touring drummer Josh Lindstrom spend their days at Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery, working in the crematorium. KAITLIN FONTANA

Now Hear This: The Awkward Stage – “Heaven Is for Easy Girls” (Download MP3)

Talk: Are you willing to spend some time in the Awkward Stage? COMMENT

On the Web: The Awkward Stage at myspace.com


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