The Stills

Oceans Will Rise (Arts & Crafts)

Phases and Stages

The Stills

Oceans Will Rise (Arts & Crafts)

Weathering the sophomore slump in today's profligate disposability practically defies comprehension. Polishing off a third disc with negligible erosion of verve and skill while cementing identity boggles the mind. Global warming means Oceans Will Rise, but the Stills navigate DayGlo 1980s art-pop like captains of our water world. The Montreal quintet's 2003 debut, Logic Will Break Your Heart, cast the Cure's overripe melancholy in New Wave's steely melodrama before critical success burned the band's original incarnation to the ground. Quite improbably, Without Feathers rose from the ashes three years later, a phoenix in an aviary of pigeons. "Ashes in gasoline" coda the jungle buzz of "Snakecharming the Masses" as more sweet revenge for the Stills. Sitting shotgun, "Snow in California" rings another winning variation of "Changes Are No Good" and "Still in Love Song" from the debut. In fact, the only flaw with Oceans Will Rise is that the band has gotten so adept at its trademark chime that the formula becomes transparent ("Being Here"). Fortunately, David Hamelin pop mantras on the order of "Everything I Build" ("is breaking down") addicts one to that same love potion No. 8½. "Dinosaurs," from which the album takes its name, cascades minor chords, major desire, and mainlining hooks. Production seals it all as taut and as giving as speaker mesh. No frills rockers such as "Eastern Europe" and the leaner "Rooibos/Palm Wine Drinkard" careen as crowd-pleasers. Oceans Will Rise, but the Stills built a raft.

***.5

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