Review of Without Feathers Album by The Stills

Those CD players with three loading trays were truly visionary at the time weren’t they? Before iPods were a twinkle in Scott Jones’ eye they were essential for parties, all night sessions on Playstations, for the cerebrally lazy and for putting on the three albums you bought that day and wanted to listen to. You no longer had to physically get up, think about what you wanted to put on next, argue with someone over whether the Second Coming was more worthy than the latest release from Modey Lemon, and all the other pointless arguments that you used to have about CD selection. You just chose three CDs and let them play. To every Yin there is a Yang, however. After a few hours of the first couple of CDs, you’d invariably get bored and do something else, or get caught up in a conversation about something that seemed important at the time, but was forgotten about the following morning. As a result the third CD would never get finished, or given the attention it deserved. At best it would be on in the background as a “mood-setter”. For me, at least, this would result in one CD inhabiting the third space for ages, sometimes weeks on ends, as the first two would have been given my full attention, assigned a character and identity, and inhabit a place in both my mind and my CD collection.

The Stills Without Feathers Album

This album is a perfect example of the “third CD tray syndrome”. Inoffensive enough to warrant repeat listens in the attempt to find the essence of it, and interesting enough not to be dismissed out of hand. There is a problem with an album of this nature though. It hasn’t, and probably never will, inhabit a space in my thinking or heart large enough to get me to actively want to listen to it. Once its few weeks in the CD changer are up and it’s replaced, it will be a long time before I pick it up on the off chance. When I do I’m sure I will be pleasantly surprised by it’s craft, simple beauty and inherent whimsical frailty.

There are a lot of influences in this album, with elements of Lemonheads, Charlatans and Interpol apparent, but rather than distilling them into something new and vibrant they are processed into one long sausage-like form of summery, uplifting songs. Simple songwriting is not a crime, but at 13 tracks this feels too long. There are precious few standout moments. It opens well with enough intent, drive and purpose to expect more and it ends well with a majestic, soaring conclusion, that manages to successfully complete an album that, at times, feels like it could go on forever. There are only three other tracks worthy of note. ‘It Takes Time’ sounds like a nursery rhyme, but instinctive rather than clichéd, and is the only track to feature a guitar solo. Also the vocals are stretched far more than on the rest of the album and feel more passionate than the monotone drone of the rest. ‘Monsoon’ is notably more chaotic, but is more haphazard than powerful. Finally ‘Retour a Vega’ is sung in French, but that doesn’t make it good.

This is a lovely album, with a gentle feel to it, but I can’t imagine it being anyone'€™s favourite. May it find its way into that third CD tray for a little while.

David Lapidus

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