Review Summary: "Still" is a beautiful trainwreck of an album.
The truth is, I’m still trying to wrap my head around “Still.” The emo that I’m used to hearing from Topshelf Records and other bands cut from the same cloth simply did not prepare me for what this little band from Arkansas had in store. This album embodies every aspect of the word “emo,” and has redefined my expectations in a genre where bands all too often stay within the confines of what is safe and comfortable. “Still” isn’t familiar, it isn’t concise, and it sure as hell isn’t easily digestible; it’s messy, jagged, and all over the ***ing place. Nouns are a band with an unfortunately uninspired name, but every song on their LP is dripping with raw and uncontrived inspiration.
“Still” begins on a note as unsettling as any, with a spacey, ambient track leading into a harrowing yet powerful spoken word introduction of sorts that sets the stage for the rest of the album. The first proper track, “I Feel As Though I Failed,” wastes no time before pounding the listener with a barrage of drums and shouted vocals about flunking out of college. The track then segues into a frenetic synth break that brings to mind early BTMI! or Math the Band. Only two tracks into the album, it becomes glaringly obvious that Nouns are a hell of a lot more interesting than their name suggests, and that they are an emo band with a true personality.
Throughout the course of the album, Nouns demonstrate just how diverse they can be from one track to the next. “Closer” is a slowed down and somewhat morose cut of lo-fi bedroom pop in the style of Elvis Depressedly or Alex G that deals with macabre lyrical themes; “Wreck” begins with a plodding exposition that morphs into a bouncy, spastic pop punk song complete with undeniably catchy guitar lines; “Ghost Legs” features screamed vocals over a slow punk drum beat that quickly switch to a more rapid, wacky delivery that wouldn’t be out of place in a Modest Mouse song. Moments like these are littered throughout “Still,” and Nouns continuously prove that there is no shortage of ways for them to differentiate themselves amongst today’s crowded emo scene.
I could talk all day about particular tracks from “Still,” but I would be especially remiss not to mention the 8-minute long track, “I Still Want to Make You Proud.” With some of the heaviest lyrical themes on the album, this song hits hard in a variety of ways, with its Brand New-like verses and dense screaming sections that bring the track to a close. Finally, the album ends on a note as high as any with “But I Can’t Stay Here,” which features haunting baritone vocals and some of the most heartfelt lyrics to be found on the album, such as, “Mother I tried my hardest, it was difficult not to die.”
As a whole, “Still” might not be for everyone. The production quality is less than stellar on most tracks, and the album’s 42-minute runtime may alienate listeners with short attention spans. But if you are willing to overlook these few minor gripes then you’ll be rewarded with an album that is truly unique and worth every minute of your time.