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24 June 2013

Album Review: Still Corners. Strange Pleasures. (SubPop May 2013). Reviewed by Ellie Sleeper.

WTSH Album Review: 
Still Corners || Strange Pleasures
Reviewed by: Ellie Sleeper

If Still Corners' debut, Creatures of an Hour, was a somewhat cold and frigid whisper, their sophomore effort, Strange Pleasures, is a euphoric sigh. The masterful confidence and ease is apparent, while the group still exhibits some of their characteristic restraint. The pace is quite drowsy, but not without energy. The duo is more enchanting than distant now, more dreamlike and cinematic than ever before.

The Londoners have no shortage of movement in their latest work; synthesizers sparkle and swirl around every song. This increased energy is perhaps the most notable improvement for Hughes and Murray. There is a tangible sense of purpose throughout Strange Pleasures. That they bring a very organic and pastoral element to their futurism is also thoroughly energizing. It stands in stark contrast to some of the recent trends of cold, aloof, and disinterested delivery.

The whole album is so solid that it is almost difficult to pick songs that stand above the rest. "All I Know" plays well with repetition and features a few syrupy guitar licks which greatly complement clever and uncommon touches like harp melodies. "Beatcity" brings early synthpop and krautrock instrumentation to a uniquely human place, and its chugging bass synthesizers are a welcome breath of urgency. Album closer and title track, "Strange Pleasures" positively smolders with soul and passion, and is also not to be missed.

The one misstep here is the oddly misplaced "Berlin Lovers." That it was also chosen as a single is even more perplexing. While it is a good pop single and is not at all a bad song, it is an incredible departure from every other number on Strange Pleasures. The brassy, warbling synth hook can actually inspire some discomfort if one is not expecting it, especially considering the restfulness of everything that precedes it. "Future Age" suffers from a bit of the same problems, but is more graceful and fitting.

Overall, Strange Pleasures glows and flickers calmingly. Its science fiction psalms radiate a very sincere warmth that listeners should find irresistible. It's a perfect soundtrack for summer evenings, and a stellar addition to any album collection.

(Additional note: iTunes offers an extended version which includes the bonus track "We Have the Future on Tape" as well as a digital booklet.)

Overall Evaluation
9.75 or an A

Standouts"All I Know", "Beatcity", and "Strange Pleasures"

Goes Great With:
The XX
Mazzy Star and Hope Sandoval
The Chromatics
Beach House
Kindest Lines