The band known as ‘Unreal’ who became ‘El Mo’ in a 1999 junior high school are now Still Life Still, and the outfit has come out with its second full-length album, four years since their debut Girls Come Too. Drop the needle on a Still Life Still record, and you can tell they’re from Toronto just by the guitar’s style and the drum arrangements. They’ve definitely evolved since their previous release, bringing in a depth and complexity to each song rooted in the four-year endeavor. There’s a sad story behind this album that explains the change in style and line-up. Three of the original members, plus the parents of Eric Young (guitarist/vocalist) passed away, which inspired the album title and the melancholic airs of certain songs.
Their music requires an appeal for both the indie and electronic genre; however, while they excel in composition, there’s not much technical prowess evident on the album. Their leads shine more through their feel than through their flair. It’s great to hear how each song holds a unique charisma, almost coming to life at times. That’s one noticeable difference from their previous album, from raw emotions to more refined feelings. There’s still an element of chaos left in the mix, though, which keeps things interesting. The producer, Alex Bonenfant, who worked with Crystal Castles before, must have been a driving factor in regards to this aspect, and bringing the balance of a shaolin monk to the plethora of effects found on the album.
The last song, Hanging With Our Families, got obnoxious by the end, being three minutes of a languishing organ and sustained vocals, covered with a reverb as thick as maple syrup. The other songs, however, are built on top of a repeating riff or verse – amazing progressions that can hypnotize you. The use of distortions, tremolos, reverb, reverse, etc… although still an integral part of them, adds a lot of atmospheric presence to each song. Each one has the capacity to pull you into a trance, especially the title song. In Enemies and Dancing Spines both have sweet grooves that will definitely get you on your feet dancing, or at least bobbing your head to the beat, if you’re the serious type.
This album is a solid addition to the band’s repertoire and Toronto’s indie scene, despite a few redundancies. It’s special how they evoke sadness with upbeat music, and happiness with slower songs. It’s proof that the band has enough substance to progress in the industry, and it’ll be interesting to hear what they grow into over the years.