Release Date: May 7, 2013
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
At a certain point in every music lover’s life, there comes a moment that all have experienced in some capacity. The moment in question stereotypically occurs during a late-night drive following some exhaustive, action-filled evening, whether it be a sobering party, a nerve-wracking date or a grueling work shift. It’s that magical time when after-hours meets the wee hours of the morning.
Still Corners' 2011 debut Creatures of an Hour introduced listeners to a band who built their kingdom on the smallest of details. The London-based duo (multi-instrumentalist Greg Hughes and singer Tessa Murray) continue to bring their shadowy world into focus on their sophomore album, Strange Pleasures. It's not so much quantum leap as logical expansion, as the pair swaps their micro lenses for macro.
Though 2013 has yet to reach its halfway mark, any group operating in the indie dream-pop realm already has their work cut out for them in releasing an album that will top Strange Pleasures, the sophomore LP from London duo Still Corners. Across the record’s 12 tracks, multi-instrumentalist Greg Hughes and vocalist Tessa Murray present some of the most evocative and melodious tunes to arise from the subgenre in recent memory. In line with the form’s staples, the music is ephemeral, but not meandering, the lush arrangements striking a balance between organic instrumentation and the synthetic, the crystalline guitar lines offsetting digital pop effects and subdued drum machine beats.
When Still Corners' first long player Creatures Of An Hour landed two years ago, it stood out like a belisha beacon above an ensemble of post-xx wannabes. Ethereal in places yet delicately poised as a whole, its Cocteaus-meets-Broadcast loveliness highlighted the band's core duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray as a force to be reckoned with in the future. Since then, obligatory tours and festival appearances aside, it's been a quiet 18 months for Still Corners.
Still Corners’ rainy day vogue has all the carefully maintained poise and brittle, silvery reverb one might expect from an ’80s-leaning pop duo, but their second release relies on a noticeably scant set of tones. Cinematic by nature but shortsighted in reach, Strange Pleasures’ delicate noir could score a scene about falling asleep at the wheel. Pleasures isn’t unpleasant, but it floats along complacently without taking any risks to make it more interesting.
The formation of dream-pop twosome Still Corners was a product of fate. The duo of singer Tessa Murray and multi-instrumentalist Greg Hughes was formed when the latter decided to alter his career path on a whim and follow a love interest to London, leaving his native Austin, TX behind. Some time later, after getting off at the wrong train station, Hughes would have his first encounter with Murray, whom he would enlist as the missing piece in his musical project.
This London duo’s 2011 debut ‘Creatures Of An Hour’ was so dream-pop it should have come with a Snuggie and a Do Not Disturb sign. There were lingering guitars, haze, and plenty of pillow-talk vocals. This time around Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes give the same tricks a more professional finish. The breathy ‘I Can’t Sleep’ is gentle and glossy, and the boisterous retro synths on ‘Future Age’ and ‘Beatcity’ pump life into the many “ooh”s and “ahhhhhh”s.
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.
“Dream-pop” should have an unlimited number of definitions. But it almost always describes records like Still Corners’ second album Strange Pleasures-- records filled with swooning harmonies, lush reverb, and vaporous melodies that are fleeting if you don’t make a concerted effort to hold onto them. If not terribly distinctive, Strange Pleasures nonetheless represents progress for Still Corners.
STILL CORNERS play the Hoxton June 12. See listing. Rating: NNN Eighties-influenced indie pop usually comes off as derivative or cheesy, so it's exciting when a band finds an original sound in something as ubiquitous as a synthesizer. On Strange Pleasures, Still Corners ditch their 60s psychedelia shtick for sounds two decades younger, and it works.
Still Corners clue their listeners in that they’re set to take them on an escapade straight away on Strange Pleasures by naming its lead-off track ‘The Trip. ’ Combine that with the hallucinogenic, desert-splashed cover art that looks like the surface of a colorful, undiscovered moon, and you have the blueprint for a record whose primary mission is to take you somewhere new. And yet, this gorgeously diaphanous album plays out more like an ethereal dream sequence rather than any tangible, globe-trotting odyssey, with the exploration coming as more of a heady inward excursion rather than anything corporeal.
If you listened to Still Corners’ debut ‘Creatures Of An Hour’ you could find - behind the monochrome beauty and shimmering sheen of their shoegazed infused electro – a very really haunting heaviness. You only had to listen to tracks like ‘Cuckoo’. Greg Hughes was obviously troubled. He’s admitted, “I was destroyed after being in a relationship; it’s all in there, suicide… all that stuff.’Thankfully for Hughes, he’s now in a happier place and it comes through on their sophomore.