Garrett Yaeger reviewed it on August 18, 2009.
Well the Cast had been working hard on new material for a follow up to As Your Shoulders Turn On You and have just released a full length record entitled Still. After the limitless promise and potential that As Your Shoulders Turn On You demonstrated, and a couple lineup changes the band has really found their forte. The group has developed into a more mature band, creatively, professionally, and personally.
I watched the songwriting for the new record go back and forth for months, and while the first few demos written shortly after the EP were closer to the style of the EP, every new idea was getting better and bigger. It's rare for a band to progress so quickly, and do it with dignity, but The Cast Before The Break are exceptional.
In its entirety the album is definitely more genre crossing than the previous EP. Still is more ambient, has more instrumentation, more power, more mystery, more everything than their previous EP. That's saying a lot considering the outstanding reviews and response to As Your Shoulders Turn On You, an album that could only be topped by its own creators.
Still opens with the track "Mira", a short instrumental piece that calmly opens the album and sets up the theme as somewhat of a motif (more as a adjective than a musical term), as well as creating a spot for the following song "Sleep". "Sleep" begins with the tension building anticipation of light feedback behind the melodic guitar lines and tasteful drums, held together by TJ Foster's incredible lyrics and vocals. Finally the chorus kicks in fulfilling all your expectations and really making a connection with the listener.
The album only gets better from here, and I strongly urge you to find out for yourself. With such a radical evolution of music I can't very well express the beauty of the album without playing it. But I will continue.
"The Hill" is the single format song of the album, a great crescendo with a catchy melody and fantastic lyrics, as always, this song is definitely one of the highlights of the album. Followed by "Head On A String", light a peaceful guitar tones carry the line "this is the wind that carries you" which will echo in your head for days. One the more remarkable capabilities of this band is how they take such perfect clean tones and then explode into an engaging powerful section. That section on this song may be your favorite part of the album.
Something to take note of is definitely the production on this album. Although As Your Shoulders Turn On You was a great record, and the production was adequate, you can really see things highlighted and enhanced on this album. The album was produced by Mike Lapierre (Brand New, Death Cab For Cutie) and the difference shows. Choosing a producer is almost like choosing another band member, but I think they were a good fit for each other.
The next track is an instrumental piece called "To Believe in Something". With a nice major key, this song, along with most of the album, just feels uplifting and inspiring. It is followed by "Culling", a great song bringing vocals back into the mix. Starts slow and soft with a mysterious mood, and eventually erupts into a wall of emotion and sound eventually leading into an instrumental fraction reminiscent of This Will Destroy You.
"A Serious of Rooms" is the next track, and by far the most individual. A slow and eerie progression, with light drums, volume swells, and heart wrenching vocals, this song really hits you. At one point with the nonsense syllables "da da da da da da" the melody and angelic vocal tone is haunting. The song digresses into madness as words are screamed and yelled like a man slowly slipping into insanity, only to become more insane with the continually slow instrumentation. We'll all be devils soon.
The following track is one I had the pleasure of hearing grow from its demo stages into what it is now, "Perspectives". This is one of the songs that the band first wrote after their debut EP was released. Although major changes have been made to it, and it has become almost a hybrid of itself and other ideas, I'm glad to see it made it the cut. I think this may have been one of the first examples of their new writing style. The verses and first choruses remained, but the original pop rock section has been replaced with a much more emotionally strident creative section. I always like to see a songwriter bringing his songs to the table and the band as a whole turning them into something brilliant that they all have had input in, and I feel this has been done well here.
Only two songs left now, and you wonder if they have saved the best for last, even after the onslaught of great material. "Canyons" I think remains my favorite track on the album. Bassist Lars Ewell contributing on vocals in this song with a tremendous screaming part, which is the perfect pair to the intensity of the song, and live... Wow. If you listen to no other song on the album, listen to "Canyons".
The album closer is another instrumental piece entitled "A Breath of Fresh Air". An obvious title for the track, yes, but there's really no better way to describe it. I am loving the use of the E-Bow, guitarist Jordan Stewart clearly got himself a new toy, and it fits perfectly with the styles of the album. The piece evokes hope in my mind, and leads us out with the thought of big things to come from the band.
I have to be honest and say that I didn't know what to think when I first heard the demos of the album, but the final product is more than I could have hoped for. It took a different perspective to fully appreciate it, but you have to keep in mind that a lot has changed since As Your Shoulders Turn On You. Whether they're shopping for a label or not is knowledge I don't have, but I will say that I'm incredibly impressed at how far they have come on their own.