Introducing themselves to the world with a batch of sleepy shoegaze tracks in 2011, Still Corners have come to occupy much of the same musical terrain as fellow dream-poppers Lower Dens. There is however, one key difference: since their 2010 debut ‘Twin-Hand Movement’, Lower Dens have been consistently evolving - both 2012’s ‘Nootropics’ and last year’s ‘Escape From Evil’ saw the band challenging the very foundations which contributed to their early success. The result has been noticeable progress, something which cannot be said about Still Corners, who like a sacked-in-the-morning football manager have painfully been employing the same strategies and expecting different results.
That being said, there isn’t anything on the London-based duo’s third album ‘Dead Blue’ that stands out as particularly bad. The record is littered with well-constructed numbers seemingly born out of masturbatory fantasies of featuring on the Drive soundtrack. But this isn’t 2011 any more, when the landscape for similar outfits like Chromatics, College, Glass Candy, and Class Actress was infinitely more fertile.
Picking up where they left off on 2013’s ‘Strange Pleasures’, ‘Dead Blue’ again comes off as a hypnotic and cinematic collection of synth-pop songs. Lead single ‘Lost Boys’ harkens back to the stadium-sized driving dance tracks pioneered by Crystal Castles. Other cuts like ‘Bad Country’ and ‘Dreamhorse’ bring a similar level of high-energy manicness to the table. The otherwise unmemorable ‘Currents’ features an infectious guitar lick, but like the rest of the record, fails to offer listeners with any substantial foothold or emotional stake in the duo’s undeniably catchy instrumentation.
Much of these shortcomings have to be attributed to Tessa Murray’s vague vocals; breathy and sugar-sweet, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Murray fails to capitalize on tunes with the potential to be infinitely more engaging had they featured more specific or emotionally engaging lyrics.
Still Corners have never had a problem churning out tunes sure to get your feet tapping, and this still holds true on ‘Dead Blue’. Instead, the band struggle with another issue here, which is distinguishing itself within a niche genre that is becoming more redundant every day. Formulaic songwriting techniques and predictable layering methods work against producer Greg Hughes and vocalist Tessa Murray. To put it kindly, ‘Dead Blue’ is more a display of lateral movement than any kind of forward progress. There simply isn’t much to latch on to here, and certainly nothing to suggest that Still Corners aren’t completely out of ideas.
Words: Noveen Bajpai
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