Like so many exciting debut offerings, The Stills’ Logic Will Break Your Heart LP hardly registered on the mainstream radar, and yet anyone who’s given it the time of day will confirm its guilty pleasures.
And so what of that broody – and occasionally obtuse – paranoia? What about those retrospective riffs, mournful meanders and crushing crescendos? Is it better to wheel them out again or to jettison them in favour of something else?
As it turns out for Without Feathers, The Stills’ sophomore effort, there’s a little bit of both. Gone is the sobriety of Animals & Insects, Love & Death’s wall of sound and simplicity of Fevered: here instead is sentimentality, complexity and greater instrumental depth.
Happily, such fundamental adjustments – perhaps brought about by drummer Dave Hamelin’s evolution to vocalist/guitarist – are tempered by consistencies: Logic’s listenability remains in prominence, as does its strong and logical track progression.
In The Beginning is typical: its ambiguous opening could veer either way, but opts for optimistic major chords for the most part, the retained organ wailing joyously rather than provoking gloom. The Mountain adheres too, progressing from vague to epic in well-measured steps.
Helicopters is Without Feathers’ Lola Stars And Stripes – gloriously infectious and singable – before In The End’s piano and drum machine combination closes the album’s first half with The Stills saddest, most touching moment to date. It’s a brilliant pairing.
Admittedly, it’s not quite the tour de force they seem to be capable of: Oh Shoplifter is nice enough but not strikingly so; It Takes Time retraces ground already comprehensively covered; and Baby Blues – featuring Metric‘s Emily Haines – has hints of being an opportunity missed.
That said, efforts like recent single Destroyer and the tremendous, fuzziness-inducing Halo The Harpoon are the signs of a band on the rise, unabashedly spurning one or two of their trademarks for a radically different but equally satisfying experience.
Kudos must be given to The Stills for throwing their more-than-apparent The Smiths influence out on its ear having made their name on it, and for, unlike many bands who about-turn, having a new approach that works just as well in its place.