The Austin Chronicle Guide to SXSW 2017

The Stills

Without Feathers (Vice)

ACL Music Fest Reviews

The Stills

Without Feathers (Vice)

Sophomore efforts, you can smell the fear – the trepidation, intimidation, desperation. Without Feathers reeks of triumph, beginning with the motor blade riffs and tambourine kicking off "In the Beginning," a parade of sleek defiance. "This story ends in bloodshed," hums David Hamelin but later admits "it's nice to see you're moving on." Are we? In the wake of the Montrealers 2003 entrance, Logic Will Break Your Heart, and instant converters "Lola Stars and Stripes," "Changes Are No Good," and "Still in Love Song," moving on seemed futile. So Hamelin and other principle songwriter Tim Fletcher had a fire sale and regrouped. Whereas the Stills' debut danced on dark pop delights, minor chords with sizzle and sheen descended from 20 years ago, when the sugar rush ceased, the crash followed. If the brightest colors of Without Feathers are hard to pinpoint through its bonfire of vanities, it's because not a single inconsequential track occurs. Sequenced to perfection are a dozen black roses. "Oh Shoplifter" chugs like Stones flower power circa 1967, while the almost preening space between piano, bass, and guitars on "Halo the Harpoons" whiffs of Queen. "In the Beginning" comes back even better as "It Takes Time." Rock-off "Baby Blues" and moping "The House We Live In" close. Triumph. (Sunday, 12:30pm, AT&T stage)

****

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