The Stills stand at indie music’s paradox of popularity: they’ve reached the threshold of being hip, but they now teeter on the brink of passing as mere hype. It’s the same double-edged blade that carved up the Strokes and cast the White Stripes onto the screens of MTV. It’s a dead end, an intersection where music becomes eclipsed by press and publicity.
And for that reason words such as “hype”, “‘the’ bands”, and “popularity” will be vacant from the remainder of this review. So, how is the Stills’ debut EP, Rememberese?
It’s decent. But the real problem elicited by Rememberese is that there’s simply not enough physical material. Based on this EP, the Stills do nothing to prove they’re anything more (or less) than mediocre. It’s not a question of Rememberese being good or poor; it’s a problem of the Stills simply not exposing enough of their sound for us to find out. The EP weighs in at just under a quarter of an hour with one of the four tracks being a remix. Out of the remaining three, “Talk to Me” is a 90-second jangle pop ditty that sounds like demo material resurrected to satiate another track number—which is exactly what it is. Thus, when you trim Rememberese down to the core of its material, two tracks spanning eight minutes is what remains after a scalpel is taken to the extraneous songs tagged onto the Stills’ debut.
Of the two, Rememberese enters with “Still in Long Song”—a track that situates the Stills immediately next to their fellow New Yorkers in Interpol. But where Interpol conjures the ghost of Ian Curtis and Co. in haunting fashion, the Stills resurrect the ghostly melodies of the Cure by stripping their goth-tinged exterior to its melodic skeleton. By deconstructing atmosphere and moodiness and placing them firmly in the realm of pop dynamism, the Stills execute their take on pop-rock with a sheen that’s appealing, but hardly original. It’s this gloomy art-pop aesthetic that clutches to Rememberese as it explores the dark underworld of atmospheric pop.
“Killer Bees”, a swirling, more developed version of the album’s opening track, surges the Stills forward with a melody that will soon be tattooed inside your skull. However, with a mere two tracks to judge by, Rememberese pails in comparison to its contemporary peers—namely Interpol. “Still in Love Song” and “Killer Bees” both smoothly glide along the gears of rock romanticism and pop mechanisms, but neither of the tracks have the creative prowess or artistic heart to truly shine.
The Stills are arty without being pretentious, talented without acting conceited and catchy without conforming. And praise must be given just for arriving at such a musical intersection. But this all-too-brief musical snapshot of the Stills leaves the listener starved for material, a true artistic direction, and a semblance of identity.