Spun: Still Life Still

By Tobias Ma

Mourning Trance is the second album from Toronto-based indie rock group Still Life Still, originally formed in 1999. The band has undergone many changes over the years, finally releasing their first album, Girls Come Too in 2009. Mourning Trance carries more maturity and thoughtfulness than the band’s debut album. The lyrics, whilst not provocative, have a pleasant abstract quality although they are partially drowned out by the other instruments. Oftentimes the instrumentals spike into chaotic, frenetic bursts — when the guitar competes with the vocals the song starts to sound uncontrolled and sloppy, particularly because the effect clashes with the songs’ predictable beats.

Many of the songs have nearly identical pacing. Though the pacing is not a problem by itself, a few of the songs — particularly in the second half of the album — rely on a formulaic approach: a semi-catchy, ethereal guitar riff that they lean on too heavily before crescendoing three-quarters of the way through into a wall of noise that makes the shape of the music difficult to perceive. Sections of the guitarwork are skillfully crisp, but others are too layered down and wreck the eerie ambience that the electronic wail could have been. The drums fail to ground the cacophony because they are too loud and too monotonous.

Not to say that Mourning Trance is a bad album. When the riffs work, they are simultaneously catchy, hypnotic, soothing and melancholic. The album is just frustrating to listen to with the knowledge that the band’s mastery of flowing electronic segments, reminiscent at times of the Smashing Pumpkins or the Pixies, could have propelled the album further had they relied less on indie rock conventions.

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