Following their 2003 full-length debut, Logic Will Break Your Heart, The Stills received critical praise on par with their Montreal counterparts, and in the following years toured with Interpol, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Kings of Leon (with whom they’ll tour again next month). Yet on their third album, Oceans Will Rise, they have produced an overblown, overreaching record that attempts, to an overwhelming effect, to make itself heard.
As evidenced by its title, and songs like “Snakecharming the Masses,” “Panic,” “Hands on Fire,” and “Dinosaurs” Oceans Will Rise is full of grandiose proclamations. On “Snow in California,” singer Tim Fletcher sings “Oh the world is changing / So rally up your friends.” “Snakecharming the Masses” includes the line “Bodies full of rattling bones / Fall into a pitch black hole.” Hamelin sings, “There’s blood on the lines / Of every page I turn / When the ones you love / Are the ones you burn,” on “Being Here.”
Lyrics like these – amorphous, vague, far-reaching but directed to nobody – reveal a band trying far too hard to evoke a response in the listener (see: Coldplay). The music tends to follow suit: mid-tempo, droning, gradually building in intensity, still aping the precision of Interpol, but ultimately forgettable. Credit should be given to drummer Julien Blais for breaking up the monotony and attempting to light a creative spark on “Don’t Talk Down,” and the otherwise outrageous “Snakecharming the Masses.”
At their best, which they are on “Everything I Build,” The Stills, while still lyrically ambiguous, trade in their musical posturing for a slow, muted approach that serves them – until an unfortunately out-of-place bridge – much better than their failed attempts at catharsis via grand chorus. A compliment, if slightly backhanded: The album’s strongest song is “Eastern Europe,” where the melody is so immediately memorable and catchy that it doesn’t matter what the band’s singing about.