Still Life Still
Girl Come Too
(Arts and Crafts; 2009)
Two years ago I was in a band called The Fancy Claps, and one night we were playing a benefit show at The Cat’s Eye, a small U of T venue near Museum station. The band on the bill after us was called Still Life Still. I knew absolutely nothing about them. After we’d finished our set, my bandmates left and my friends and I were about to, but for some reason, I thought I’d stick around and see just one song by this band to see if they were any good. And that was all it took.
Not only did I stay and dance throughout the entire set, but after they finished, I went up, met the band, and told them I thought they were amazing and that I wanted to join. Unfortunately, lead singer/guitarist Brendan Saarinen-Pernar didn’t let me, as he was happy with the lineup as it was and I figured that was alright, considering I had my own music to work on anyways. So I hung on as a fan, following them as they went from playing coffee shops out in who knows where to the Drake Hotel to NXNE showcases alongside The Stills and Most Serene Republic. And now I’m sitting here in my room in Thornhill listening to their debut album, Girls Come Too, released by Arts and Crafts, the label they were seemingly destined to be on.
So, while there was no danger of Grubtunes giving Girls Come Too a bad review unless producers Kevin Drew and Martin Davis Kinack totally wrangled the band’s sound, this is still a review and not just my heaping praise upon the band. Thankfully though, Drew and Davis Kinack did an amazing production job and SLS sound better than ever. Not that SLS don’t sound great live, but Drew and Kinack take the band’s sound and throw it through an indie-rock kaleidoscope, colouring the album with gorgeous, dreamy textures evocative of My Bloody Valentine and (expectedly) Broken Social Scene, mixed to subtle, scrappy perfection by the always-incredible Noah Mintz.
Fans of SLS already know and love most of the songs on the album: the spacey, ambient “Planets”, the sex-istentialist “Danse Cave”, the frantic romantic “Knives In Cartoons”, the bouncy pop about messy love of “T-Shirts” and the post-millennial brand of longing for human connection in the desperate “Pastel”. The lesser-to-unknown tracks keep in line for the most part with SLS’s 90s guitar-heavy, synth-padded, warm, bedroom comfort sound, though “Kid” stands out from the pack with Johnny Marr-style guitars and Saarinen-Pernar’s most narrative-like lyrics as opposed to his usual impressionistic poetry splotches about sex and life in the city. “Wild Bees” is also notable for its fragile vocals and some of the album’s most striking lyrics, like, “You could pull the curtains/ Right around your face/ If we’re all just wild wild wild wild bees/ Trying to make a home and taste that honey.”
The only flaw – if it even is a flaw, particularly in the digital age – of Girls Come Too, is that it feels more like a well-assembled compilation than a start-to-finish album. The mix of pop-driven and more-ambient songs gives Girls Come Too variety, but perhaps because the album is made up of numerous cherry picked songs written over the span of several years, it never feels entirely unified. Even so, when the songs cherry picked are as strong as these, it’s hard to lodge much of a complaint.
Still Life Still are still a young band, despite the fact that they’ve been together for a solid decade, and this, their first album, is likely only setting the stage for a long and fruitful career, the way the debuts of all the lasting great indie bands have. Girls Come Too marks not only the grand arrival of one of the best band’s Toronto has produced yet (no easy statement in 2009), but the official arrival of the next generation of Toronto’s music scene that supported and have been supported by SLS for years now. If it’s this good at the start, I can only imagine what heights it’ll reach in the future.
Still Life Still will be playing an album release show at The Horseshoe on Friday, August 28th. Those who pre-order the album now will be put on the guestlist.
Click here to buy Girls Come Too from the Arts and Crafts online store.