Ten years is a long time to spend together as a band. It must feel a hundred times longer when you spend all that time working up to your first album. But that’s exactly what Still Life Still did and their never-ending determination to succeed is heard all over their 2009 debut, Girls Come Too. The result is a record that is fiercely energetic, honest, and definitely worth a listen.
Girls Come Too is a wonderful mess of shoegaze, indie rock that sounds traditional yet puts the band’s personality on display. The songs are varied, with each track creating its own distinct environment, but still remaining part of the same structure from beginning to end. Songs all contain the usual suspects for instruments, but they also include random background noises. Where in many cases this is distracting, Still Life Still seamlessly integrates them into the music.
The opener, “Danse Cave”, starts off with what sounds like a Geiger counter. The rapid-fire drums of Aaron Romaniuk soon enter the mix, supported by a seasick guitar. As on most of the tracks here, Brendon Saarinen’s voice has a slight echo on it, adding to the otherworldly feel the band creates. About halfway through, you feel thrown into another landscape, a premise continued on nearly every number following. In this case, the music conjures images of speeding on a futuristic highway in the middle of the night. This idea continues in “Flowers and a Wreath”, a perfect song to listen to while lying on the beach at dusk. Ringing guitars create feelings of calm reflection, even though the music is still pretty energetic.
Sticking with the beach location for now, “Kid” has a decidedly California surfer guitar tone that makes you think of happy summer days. Don’t let the light intro fool you though. Focusing on the words paints a portrait of a kid coming from a broken family who can’t find the support he needs at home or at school. The grinding guitar noises that sound like nails on a chalkboard towards the end serve to drive the point home.
Less than 90 seconds long, “Lite Bright Lawns” encourages the stream-of-consciousness delivery by Saarinen through the combination of click-clacking drums and a light but steady maraca. The song as a whole is pretty calm until a burst of heavy strumming takes the track to its quick conclusion. It’s almost like watching football players carefully take their position before aggressively slamming into each other. (It’s Super Bowl week. Football analogies are in.) Before you know what happened, the moment has passed.
Unfortunately, the rest of the tracks on Girls Come Too mainly sound like the first two. That’s not to say that they aren’t good songs, they just go over territory already covered here. The one exception to this is “Planets”, which at times feels like the spiritual successor of “Space Oddity”. Distorted radio transmissions compliment the light, floating guitar tones. As Saarinen sings “It’s a family of wolves out there/They bury their young,” you can sense the comparison between dog eat dog world of today with the chaotic order found throughout the universe and the fear of what’s outside our door.
Even though Girls Come Too has its flaws, Still Life Still has created a very good debut that doesn’t color outside the indie/shoegaze lines but paints a damn fine portrait within them. It’s not a genre breaker, but it was never intended to be. Instead, this album forces you to sit up and pay attention to a band that’s ready to show what they can do.