Music

Little Cub: Still Life

Photo: Holly Whitaker

South London's Little Cub craft a debut album that elegantly addresses modern-era woes via a blanket of warm, familiar influences.


Little Cub

Still Life

Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2017-04-28
UK Release Date: 2017-04-28
Amazon
iTunes

Judging solely on the smartly arranged production, Little Cub’s debut album Still Life could have been created in a lab. One listen to “Breathing Space” instantly brings to mind some of Hot Chip’s most spirited tracks. “My Nature” has the self-lacerating lyricism of Miguel or Gary Lightbody, and on opening track “Too Much Love", even Dominic Gore’s vocals recall Ben Gibbard.

But like the best lab creations, there is an unmistakable element of humanity pulsating throughout Still Life. And while Little Cub are fairly unabashed when it comes to paying homage to their influences, their lyrics reflect an altogether original portrait of a young lad in south London who revels in late-night excesses but occasionally steps away into a poorly-lit bathroom to splash water on his face and look into the reflection of a deeply unhappy, deeply lonely person.

Still Life came to be as a result of Dominic Gore and Duncan Tootill’s collaboration after the two met in London. When Tootill returned to New York, Gore worked with Ady Acolatse on crafting the songs that would eventually become Still Life.

The band’s bio states that the kickoff track “Too Much Love” (and much of Still Life) was loosely based on the Oscar Wilde quote, “I represent all the sins that you will never have the courage to commit.” Inspiration-wise, that may be true, but most of Still Life's debauchery essentially comes from the tried and true themes of fears of intimacy, the apathy that comes with one too many familiar nights at the club, and the “Brilliant Disguise”-like paranoia of distrust in a relationship.

Still Life’s most obvious look at a world outside of its own characters is in “Death of a Football Manager”. Written about former Wales manager Gary Speed, who hanged himself in 2011, the track is propelled by a simple percussive beat and a minimal keyboard riff. “Was it for love that you crossed the wall? / Or was it grief at your own sense of failure?” Gore sings without any sign of judgment in his voice.

Still Life concludes with a remarkably steller trio of songs. “Loveless” has the most memorable chorus of the album with the ear-worm utterance of “Did we really lose our hearts?” The song is a great setup to the emotional gut-punch of “Snow”. The soft, delicate beats beautifully compliment Gore’s echoey delivery. It’s a strong enough finish to merit a repeat listen for the entire album, which is exactly what a good album should do.

Most memorable debut albums fall into two camps: instant classics or great indicators of things to come. There are times when it’s hard to distinguish Little Cub from their influences, and it’s that affliction that keeps Still Life from becoming an instant classic. But there is enough warmth to their sound and sharpness to their lyrics to indicate that -- given their talent -- a sophomore slump is not in the cards.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam
Music

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.

Music

Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.

Music

L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.

Books

Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.

Music

Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.

Music

Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.

Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.