nouns - still
Release Date: February 19, 2014
Record Label: Funeral Sounds
And I thought The Hotelier had written the most affecting album of the year.
still is much like Home, Like Noplace Is There in that both deal extensively with depression and suicide, but where the two diverge is perspective. Home is told from the perspective of a separate narrator, left helplessly to watch his or her friends suffer. On still, you’re left helplessly to listen to someone suffering. On Home, you hear things like, “You felt buried from the start/tearing you apart,” while still opens with, “I was raped at fourteen.”
It’s a harrowing way to begin an album. But as “fourteen” continues on, there’s a slight hope to be found:
Show them that you’re strong,
And that you can overcome more adversity
And that you can come out a role model
And show them that you’re truly proud with the person you’ve become....
Use this to help the world one person at a time
And know that you’re no longer the victim.
Instead, you’re the victor.
“fourteen” is told from the perspective of Olivia, described by lyricist/vocalist/synth player Hunter Clifton Mann as the “golden goddess inside me” – Olivia represents hope, optimism and perseverance. She stands in contrast to the other tree personalities who populate the world of still – Mann’s own mind – Jackson, Oliver, and J.D. Jackson is the self-loathing side of Mann, who is “such a fucking wreck,” violent and self-destructive; Oliver turns that anger outside of him, inflicting it on others, only feeling liberated after he “took my father’s rifle and shot up my school” and killed everyone who made him feel left out; J.D.’s the older version of Jackson, less cynical than his younger counterpart, but no less self-effacing.
Throughout the album, each facet of Mann’s personality is fully fleshed out and realized. Jackson is constantly wracked with the fear of letting down his parents, feeling they’re the only people he has yet to let down. He confesses all of this in the final seconds of “wreck,” declaring, “you would miss me too much if I were gone.” J.D.’s songs, more punk rock affairs, are perhaps a bit easier to swallow – “I find I’m much happier being me” – but are never free of a pervasive sense of emptiness: “I don’t hate this world one bit, I just hate being in it.” Oliver’s two songs, “closer” and “daydream,” are two of the hardest to listen to, dealing so openly with the acts of violence he’d like to carry out. Nonetheless, when he says that “in my head I killed you all and you all begged me and for once, I felt powerful,” it doesn’t come off as intimidating – it’s saddening, particularly since he follows it up with “they accepted me, said I wasn’t crazy and for once, I felt alright.” It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Oliver, despite the things he wants to do – he’s been pushed over so many times that the only way to regain his humanity is to make everyone else suffer as they made him suffer. Musically, his songs reflect this feeling of rejection, being the two most somber songs, filled with ambient synths, almost like they’re just trying to quietly fade out. Olivia is, throughout, the beacon of light, ever trying to save everyone else from the pain she’s felt. On the unpredictable “little slugger,” she asks, “If you’re the same as you were last year, then what have you done to grow?” seemingly as much to herself as to the listener.
But there’s one final song that doesn’t fit into one of those: album closer “but i can’t stay here.” The most heartbreaking song on the album, it’s a relatively sparse song to end things off, told not from the perspective of one of Mann’s alter egos, but from his own. The bridge of this song is possibly the emotional apex of the entire record, which is quite a claim to make, as Mann shouts “it was difficult not to die.” The power in these words is palpable, and the most resonant word in the line is “was.” The song as written to be Mann’s suicide note, with that line encompassing all the torment he went through every day. It was difficult not to die every day, and I can’t do it anymore. But Hunter Mann survived, and now that line takes on a whole new meaning. Yeah, it was difficult not to die, but things are, slowly, going to get better. For Mann, and for anyone else listening. As is engraved in the cassette tapes, “we just want you to be okay.”
i know this isn't really a review, let alone a good one, and i know it's really late, but i feel like this is a really important album that people should hear, and it didn't feel right attaching a numerical value to this. but please, listen to it.
was convinced to listen after reading the first line because i didn't think it was possible to top the hotelier in terms of albums that hit you like a ton of bricks but woah, this album is devastating, and i mean that in the best way possible.