Review Summary: Music for perfume advertising.
Still Corners have flirted a little with the "music for road movies" aesthetic. On their latest, they move the synths to background and go almost fully twang, possibly leaving them exposed.
Hardly a revolutionary act, Still Corners' strength lay in balancing the electronic and natural well. Vocalist Tessa Murray has also always navigated the restrained instrumentals with detached aplomb, nestling in the waves of synth and guitar as if they were a comfortable, second home. Her precision and instinct fit with the vague dreamy new wave sensibilities, and it's that confidence that makes the music work.
Here, sadly, I feel the more organic backdrop feels like a perfume ad interpretation of driving across a desert location. There's plenty of bent guitar, shimmering acoustic strum, and soft brushed drum. The 'Wicked Game' playbook is in full effect, and while they manage to create a pretty facsimile, I'd be hard pressed to remember a lyric or moment in any of these songs. Storytellers they are not - vague neutrality is their friend.
Nothing on here doesn't sound "nice" however; I just imagine that most of us would prefer our desert Americana to have at least some blood or bite. A snarl or break in a vocal line wouldn't go amiss, or perhaps a piano interlude with one bum note. 'Crying' is one of the songs which puts the synths a little more front and center, but relies on a mournful whistle to create an emotional connection. Murray sings with breathy disinterest - when she utters "It's so hard", it sounds like she's absentmindedly replying to a troubled friend while flipping through her phone.
'White sands' rides a unmemorable little keyboard lick - surf guitar hangs off the track it like too much fake spiderweb at Halloween. It substitutes breathiness for genuine changeups, and just seems incapable of getting started despite the driving bassline. This trend continues in the generic 'A kiss before dying'. These songs exist in West of a sound stage - one push and the saloon will fall over.
As with someone like Chris Isaak, Still Corners rely on a carefully sculpted sense of style. When Isaak shifts out of a mumbling Lothario reverie in the immortal 'Wicked Game' to intone "I never dreamed that I'd find somebody like you", we buy his tortured act, if just for a second. Even though we shouldn't. Nothing here rises above the mix to imprint itself in our consciousness. Next time, I hope they pastiche with feeling.