Still Corners is a dream pop band from London. It’s primarily the work of vocalist Tessa Murray and the American multi-intstrumentalist Greg Hughes. They describe their music as “cinematic”, and they also describe the conditions under which they first met as “cinematic”. From their Sub Pop band page, Hughes tells the story:
It sounds stupid but it’s completely true. I was on a train that was going to London Bridge. But for some reason it went to this other stop. And I got out, and this other person got out. It was Tessa.
They started Still Corners in 2007, and they released a couple of EPs with moderate success. They finally got a break and they ended up under the Sub Pop umbrella. In the autumn of last year, they released their debut album Creatures of an Hour. It was met with warm reviews, but Lindsay Zoladz at Pitchfork gave it a tepid 6.5. Her crankily-written review repeatedly says words to the effect of “it’s good, but it isn’t the best album ever recorded”. That’s the problem, I think, with some Pitchfork reviewers. They set the bar impossibly high. As a result, there are A LOT of really fantastic records that get Pitchfork scores of 6.3 or so. I disagree with their bell curve grading system, and I could go on for ages about that, but I’ll leave it alone for now.
Hughes is a self-described film buff, and that’s pretty clear in what Still Corners are doing. In their live performances, they project bits of old films on a screen behind them to enhance the feel of the songs. Even in the music, it’s clear to hear the influence of legendary composer Ennio Morricone, who scored hundreds of films. While his most famous work is the theme from “The Good The Bad and The Ugly”, he did lots of stuff outside the “spaghetti western” genre, and he also did lots of stuff outside the film industry. Anyway, Morricone is an influence on what Hughes is doing.
It’s clear, also, that Hughes is influenced heavily by the dream-pop heyday of the early-mid 1990s. I hear a lot of Slowdive. I hear a lot of Swallow. Although I’ve referenced them a bunch of times, I haven’t written about Swallow yet. Mark your calendars for July 20. That’s when I’ll finally write about Swallow, as part of the “20 years ago today” series. I’m quite happy that dream-pop is making a huge resurgence, and this particular sub-set of super-gauzy ethereal dream-pop is too, with stuff like Blouse and Memoryhouse.
Before I get too far, I’ll give you today’s song:
You could say “Tessa Murray’s sugary, dreamy, impossibly airy vocals are drowned in Greg Hughes’ spot-on mid-90s dream-pop soundscapes” or you could say “Greg Hughes creates a dense dream soundtrack, then Tessa Murray stretches her gauzy vocals over it like so much gossamer”. Whether the vocals are submerged in the music or the music is enveloped by the vocals, it’s hard to tell the difference. I don’t care. I love it.
The lyrics of this song are kind of tough to determine. Even the trusty lyrics websites don’t have anything to write home about on this one. However, even on the songs that have clearer lyrics, they prefer that there’s some mystery surrounding the songs. They like for the listener to decide for himself what the meaning is. I read a quote from one of the Reid brothers from The Jesus & Mary Chain saying words to the effect of “I hate it when I think a song is about something, and then they guy who wrote it comes out and says it’s about something else”. He likes for their songs to have some mystery and ambiguity. He invites the listener to make up his own meaning. So do Still Corners. Says Hughes:
I don’t like to talk too much on decoding the songs. It takes the mystery away. I like when people listen and then come up with their own kind of thing.
One of the things that I really like, apart from Murray’s soprano, is the rumbling of the drums. It’s almost constant. I’m not a fan of snare drum fills, despite their ubiquity in rock music. I always get excited when someone uses toms in their fills, and that’s what they’re doing here.
Towards the end of the song, when the organ comes in at 2:44, the song gets just a bit of a Yo La Tengo feel. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. By then, the guitar has started to meander around a little bit, adding to the Yo La Tengo feel. I don’t know if it’s a deliberate nod to them, but it seems like it must be. To reel it back in, though, there’s still just a little bit of Murray’s vocals.
If you can buy it from a mom-and-pop bricks-and-mortar store in your hometown, you should do that. If not, you can buy Creatures of an Hour from the Sub Pop web store here.
I really hope that this band has a lot more in the tank because I really love this album. I hope you do, too.