Still Corners new album The Last Exit, out now on Wrecking Light Records, is the fifth record from London duo Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes, who originally met back in 2009. For anyone, it can be a difficult thing for a first timer to uncover a band already deep into their career and style, but when it’s this smooth and inquisitive, it’s hard to ignore and that’s a positive sign right from album-titled opener The Last Exit, which reverberates around the welcoming dustbowl of the brain and immerses you as swiftly as it can.
It’s a smart place to begin, as it sets the tone for their sprawling, horizon-pursuing trip that only encourages the 2021 desire for escapism. Second track Crying merges into the inaugural track, and feels like the second chapter in the story, gradually slipping in a guitar some classic whistling and a more mellow contemplative, with the higher key firmly added to their piano love.
The Last Exit is all about atmospherics, it’s clear the band have strived for context and themes. There’s an essence of the likes of Future Islands in production, something that takes the song and lets it progressively breathe, much like Warpaint with their soundscapes. My only contention with specific sonic environments isn’t the world-building but the time of day, quite literally, when you listen to it can be vital because it reflects and reacts to your mood.
However, saying that, once we hit the third song, White Sands, they’ve hit the vibe of the road and the expanse before us. This song holds a mix of modern and the ever classic, like it’s a song that’s been around forever. There’s something hypnotic and timeless about tracks like White Sands: you’ve got the car window open, the wind is rushing through, you can hear the clack of the train track, watch the vapour lines stream out across the sky, see the storm coming in and feel the shudder of the shifting atmosphere, like a Fleetwood Mac track but for now.
These specific stylistics stick as we push into Till We Meet Again, which is like sitting in an old smoky club, watching the world go by with a whiskey in your hand. Or sat in the window of a deserted town, seeing the dust clouds encapsulate the only passing car for miles around. And these in these moments, I’m there with them and the ghosts of Eagles.
A Kiss Before Dying is a little too on the nose as a homage to Nick Cave and PJ Harvey (Stories from the City-era) and, for me, too much like the opening track to stand out. Bad Town/Mystery Road slips by through the fast-shifting clouds, taking the wild dogs with it, it’s now twilight, there’s a rogue glare of a car with a broken taillight, you’re feeling dozy in the glow of the sunset, and the stars begin to appear in the frame of the darkening skyline.
Static is very Wicked Game, by Chris Isaak, and because of that a little out of place (due to that connection) but thankfully It’s Voodoo brings us back to jam it out, but with more similarities to what came earlier. However, you could merge them into one whole sequence of one giant song. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes this works but other moments lose your attention and aren’t as compelling. It’s a huge jam though, and I’d love to see it live. Then we’re at the final credits of The Last Exit, and they bring their Old Arcade to close proceedings. Holding a slight Where is my Mind guitar riff that kicks off the finale, but underplays itself, and fades out unusually quickly – whereas you feel like a live version could trial off into another long session, and it’d be very welcome indeed.
Overall, this is a solid, curious album with its own distinctive mood formed through the aesthetic of atmospherics and piano motifs. While some tracks are sharper than others, it doesn’t take away from an earthy, lurking album of travels, strangers and watching the seasons change as you float through the ambience with them.
This is music that resonates in the belly of the dustbowl, telling stories in whispers at the back of the old community hall, and just as the electricity in the storm spins, she turns to you with a look, as if to say, it’s time to get out of here and seek another adventure.