May 13, 2013 Web Exclusive
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.
The back half of the album falls into the more introspective territory covered by the band's first full-length. But while it touches on the same adjectives (see: haunting, ghostly, moody, autumnal), when taken as a whole, this is no mere retread. Both pace and ambition is increased. No longer relegated to accent status for Hughes' early morning-evoking compositions, Murray's vocals are placed at the front of the mix. She sounds not unlike a 1960s pop princess auditioning for Cocteau Twins—an ethereal and dangerous femme fatal. Hughes supports his leading lady, creating songs that sound like the vision of a child of the '80s, filtered through Broadcast's moody cinematic palette. It's a tone that rivals M83 in sheer nostalgic power. "Fireflies" in particular is an ice-cool, twinkling ballad—a prime example of the band at their most unabashedly romantic. (We shall now pause to imagine an alternate dimension Pretty in Pink where Duckie gets the girl and the couple dances to the song under a spinning disco ball.) The pair dips even further into straight-up electro pop territory with "Berlin Lovers," pairing a New Order-style beat with Murray's echoed query, "See the stars are out tonight." Largely eschewing acoustic guitars (save for "Going Back to Strange"), Strange Pleasures is a testament to the full-range of synths, turning what could easily become an exercise in sterility into a multi-faceted pop gem. (www.facebook.com/stillcorners)
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