With lockdowns forming a major part of Britain in 2020, decent new music was hard to come by as recording studios closed delaying album releases. We all have hope for more quality music to be released this year, and there’s certainly precedents for this with Still Corners fifth album, The Last Exit. When I spoke with the band, they said that due to their tour being cancelled, they “binned half [their] album and re-wrote it”, and this was certainly a productive way to spend lockdown, with the album released in the midst of a third national lockdown on January 22nd.
When asked what this album had done differently in comparison with the bands’ previous four, they commented: “limitations can be very rewarding, we focused on voice and guitar so stylistically there’s more focus on those two things this time around” and this is evident in the minimalist beauty of each track. Perfectly crafted with a piano, a couple of guitars, drums and of course a soothing voice that I have come to associate with Still Corners. When synths are used, they are in keeping with this limited style, creating a hauntingly beautiful album full of mystery. As always, the duo manages to use their Trans-Atlantic relationship in their favour, with a dustbowl style coupled with ethereal vocals to haunt and stick with the listener.
‘White Sands’ is a personal favourite from the album, accentuating the bands style with some really exceptional storytelling from vocalist Tessa Murray. ‘It’s Voodoo’ has a brilliant driving guitar throughout that gives the track a Fleetwood Mac vibe, with one of the best guitar solos I have heard in years, it is definitely worth a listen. However, it seems like other songs on the album are just going through the motions, rather than pushing boundaries. Whilst there is nothing particularly wrong with them and they carry the country-noir style well, many lack the star quality from previous hits, including their hits ‘Lost Boys’ and my personal favourite, ‘Berlin Lovers’ from their 2013 album ‘Strange Pleasures.
Beautiful song writing has been a feature of Still Corners from the very beginning. And as the band had “more uninterrupted time than ever”, to quote them directly, their process changed to keep themselves entertained through these challenging times and the product this new technique was produced obviously has worked wonders. Even when you strip away the beautifully minimalist instrumentation of the album, the songwriting of both Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes shines in its own right telling intriguing and unique stories from start to finish on each of the eleven tracks. Writing in 15-minute segments each, the duo’s chemistry can be seen on this album like never before. Their talents combine on each track to create a great album to relax to on these winter days in lockdown.
As an aspiring songwriter myself, I was particularly intrigued to hear about how the band managed to get out of any ruts, especially in a year where inspiration was hard to come by. The band told The Blue that “Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies” were incredibly useful to them, and having tested this myself in recent weeks, I would definitely recommend looking into this strategy, which provides you with motifs and inspiration for your songs.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed chilling out to The Last Exit, and whilst it is nothing ground-breaking, the development of Still Corners is something particularly exciting for a long-time fan like myself, and I can’t wait to see where the band head creatively and stylistically. After all touring for the band was cancelled in 2020, they are looking forward to getting back out on the road in 2021 with a European tour, and I for one will certainly be buying tickets.