Still Life Still garner some hard earned praise with their debut album, but the Arts & Crafts protégées still have some fine-tuning to do before they join the ranks of Canada’s best.
That familiar Arts & Crafts logo stamped on cover art usually guarantees the quality of whatever it’s printed on, and certainly, Girls Come Too by Still Life Still is no exception.
After winning over the Toronto music scene, Brendon Saarinen (vocals & guitar), Eric Young (vocals & guitar), Derek Paulin (bass), Aaron Romaniuk (drums), and Josh Romaniuk (keyboards & percussion) present their first studio release under the label for which they were seemingly custom-made. Fostered by indie-rock veterans Martin Davis Kinack (Hayden, Apostle of Hustle, Sarah Harmer) and Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Girls Come Too is the accomplished 11-track introduction to the band’s burgeoning sound.
The start alone is worth the listen. The loose guitars and powerful drum series that are strung together in "Danse Cave" awake urgent expectations. And fortunately, the skilled instrumentation hinted at during this awe-inspiring start is generally maintained throughout the album.
Through this record, the band shows off their tuned synchronization (rumored to be even more infectious during live performances), with carefully intertwined guitar riffs, idyllic drum arrangements, and enveloping synths. "Kid" and "Pastel" are probably the greatest examples of this densely layered sound; the songs are filled with harmonious interactions and some additional background experimentation that simply works.
Maybe inevitably, the album gathers some evident Broken Social Scene comparisons. The familiar guitar style and the cautiously deconstructed song structures, best appreciated in songs like "Neon Blue", immediately draw us back to BSS. Fortunately, the similarity comes off as a straightforward influence rather than a shameless rip-off.
All the same, the listener will encounter some disparities and unintentional reverberations that unfortunately lessen the music experience. For instance, even though the track-list is pretty decent, with many outstanding songs, the album never feels truly unified. Most of the songs were not written during the same period; rather, Still Life Still chose highlights of nearly 10 years worth of material and made a debut album out of it. So although the tracks result enjoyable, the listener may miss that sonic consistency privy to flawless albums.
More to the point, the complex musical structures are simply no match for the one-dimensional vocal style. This discrepancy becomes extremely evident -- and sadly, a bit niggling -- in tracks like "Lite-Bright Lawns". This song boasts playful experimentation and an excellent use of drums and synthesizers, but ultimately, the vocals result off-putting. A couple exceptions to the rule however, are the lively "T-Shirt" and the majestic "Wild Bees"; in their case, the band conjures worthy vocal melodies and more mature arrangements. The latter also has an epic ending that is totally worth waiting around for.
Saarinen and Young seem to be the voice of a whole generation of Canada's youth, portraying tall tales of life and sex in the city. And although none of the lyrics stand out as truly striking, they do prove thoroughly entertaining.
Still Life Still also have their measureless energy going for them. The lively pace and raw resonance -- products of recording the album live off the floor -- keep you on your toes. Their willingness is a big plus, and added to the fact that they are a relatively young band, it´s easier to get over the debut´s slip-ups. Ultimately, the listener will be left expectant of what´s to come from this promising band, and there is no doubt that Still Life Still will be eager to please.