I’ll full-on admit that I am a bit of a raging synth-pop addict lately, and at precisely the perfect time, a charming, doozy of a record came along to scratch the itch once more. I’m talking about Strange Pleasures, the second full-length album from Still Corners. Founded in London, England in 2007, Still Corners is a musical venture masterminded by multi-instrumentalist Greg Hughes and complimented with vocals by Tessa Murray. Together, the duo released their first LP, the pretty and sedate Creatures of an Hour, in 2011, on the ever legendary Sub Pop label.
What I noticed right away is that Strange Pleasures is a great deal more cohesive than Creatures. The songs are a lot punchier and showcase far more confident artists. While Murray’s vocals are still beautifully breathy, they are slightly bolder this time round, strongly resembling in places one of this writer’s favourite female vocalists, Starofash. The dreamy, reverb-soaked soundscapes constructed by Hughes play out like the eighties on valium, and are laced with tiny, subtle touches, sheets of ambient atmosphere, and some truly lovely hooks.
While nothing on the record is really going to jump out and slap you in the face, which is sort of the point of a record like this, there are some truly remarkable songs on Strange Pleasures. Tessa Murray’s vocals shine quite spectacularly on “Beginning to Blue,” and the subtle keys on the same track are also incredible. “I Can’t Sleep” is a very unique blend of moving numbness, while the catchy “Fireflies” is the perfect lead single. “Berlin Lovers” harks back to the art pop of the late seventies, with a little bit of early Emily Haines thrown in for good measure.
The most ‘normal’ track on the record, oddly enough, is “Going Back to Strange.” It’s a lovely little piece, with acoustic guitar arpegios and ambient keyboard lifting the beautifully detached lead vocals up exceptionally. The thrillingly atmospheric “Midnight Drive” gives me goosebumps, while the intriguing album coda, the title track, cliffhangs with spectacular keyboard sounds.
For a fan, such as myself, of ambient music, art-pop, and synth-pop, Still Corners’ Strange Pleasures takes s0me of the most beautiful moments on record for most of those genres and pulls it all together, offering up one hell of an ultra-mellow beauty that should definitely be added to the collection of any admirer of audio art.
RYAN SMITH spends a great deal of his time under troll bridges shaking his fist and hollering obscenities at the mainstream, but occasionally finds himself on the side of a pop act that the underground has disowned. A schizoid fan for the 21st century? Although he has a diverse musical taste that runs the gamut from black metal to country to most forms of jazz, Ryan’s first love will always be progressive music.