The Stills - Oceans Will Rise
Record Label: Arts & Crafts
Release Date: August 19, 2008
A great debut is essential for any indie band and The Stills did just that with Logic Will Break Your Heart (an album which I adore, but which got lost in the mix with the mass of emerging indie bands). The Stills needed an equally magnificent sophomore album to cement their place in the industry. Unfortunately, their second effort, Without Feathers, failed miserably critically and commercially. Not only was the album a huge departure, it was a complete abandonment of their sound. One must commend them only for their courage for experimentation, because their material was nothing worth writing about.
With all that said, they actually fell off my radar and had become nothing more than "some indie band with a great debut." Well, a few months ago I caught wind that they were releasing a new album. Purely out of boredom I discovered their new masterpiece. Oceans Will Rise is one of the most exciting records I've heard in awhile. It is a melting pot of influences, but none too straightforward. The guitars are clean and catchy, the vocals solid and full of life, and the awesome addition of keyboards gives a great fuller sound. "Snakecharming the Masses" is easily the strongest song on the album. Its thundering drums give the song such a powerful climax. The lyrics are able to sound new and fresh, in spite of the fact that it's yet another anti-Bush song. I love nothing more than when a more mellow indie band can make the occasionally ferocious tune.
"Don't Talk Down" shows another side of the band. It sounds like a song they could've composed while relaxing on a beach, which is not typical of The Stills. The keyboard in "Snow in California" resembles the piercing sounds of a 70's sci-fi adventure film (you know, the kind with the clay monsters). "Eastern Europe" is a fast-paced tune with a swinging groove that actually makes me think of Taking Back Sunday. "Roobibos/Palm Wine Drinkard" is another fast and even groovy song. The catchy guitar licks sound straight out of the glory days of jazz. The closing track "Statue of Sirens" seems more like The Stills are honoring Sunny Day Real Estate than being an average album track. With such a solid album, The Stills should definitely be given more notice.
The only beef I have with this album is that some of the tracks don't stand out from the others well enough. I generally hate it when people claim a whole album sounds the same (I've heard that complaint about both of Circa Survive's albums), but in this case I think that is the problem for a limited number of the tracks. Nonetheless, an album of material is supposed to sound like it goes together so I can't complain too much. In spite of the weaker songs, it is still a solid album and will definitely be on my top albums of the year list.
I agree with Kill Moneen. I think the down the line people will realize Without Feathers is initially disappointing because of how different it is, but it ends up actually being the best of their three albums.
Obviously opinion is opinion. I gave Without Feathers several listens and it still just doesn't appeal to me. I think it is accurate to say they completely abandoned the sound they started with Logic and some will like it, others won't. I do think this album is more in line with Logic than Without Feathers was though.