Still Corners - Strange Pleasures LP
Sub Pop Records
Still Corners' debut album, 2011's Creatures of an Hour, was a murky, reverb-covered neo-psych gem that drew from the hypnotic drone of Broadcast and the mystery of This Mortal Coil, and had a haunting air brought to life by Tessa Murray's bewitching vocals. The band's second album, 2013's Strange Pleasures, finds them stripping away most of the reverb and murk in favor of a sleek and streamlined style that's bathed in shiny synths and shines like neon reflected in rain-soaked city streets. Greg Hughes' production buffs all the rough edges off, forsaking the jangling guitars and rumbling drums of their debut in favor of subtly chiming guitars and machine-driven rhythms with banks of keys that wash over Murray's vocals. The shorthand key to their new sound is Cocteau Twins doing the soundtrack for Drive II, and if that sounds good to you, this album totally works. Tracks like "All I Know" and "Beatcity" have all the stripped-down, nocturnal drive of Chromatics; Hughes even borrows their skeletal guitar sound wholesale at times. The android pulse of "Berlin Lovers" and the rather obviously titled "Midnight Drive" are two examples of the hours Hughes must have spent absorbing the Drive soundtrack. The Cocteau Twins influence shows in both the atmospheric bath of sound Hughes dips the slower songs deeply into and also in the crystalline beauty of Murray's almost impossible clear vocals. At times on the last album, she almost sounded a little too classy for the musical backing, but that is definitely not a problem here. None of this means that the album is a pale imitation of anyone; it's more of an adept fusing of very distinct styles into something interesting and almost factory fresh, if not quite to the level of the bands they are drawing inspiration from. This different approach may put off some fans who were enchanted by the lower-fidelity, more guitar-based charms of their first album, but there is enough of that band left here to make this a departure worth following. Besides, Murray's voice is so captivating, she'd be worth following almost anywhere she chose to go.