Album Review – Still Life by Massage (Mt. St. Mtn, Tear Jerk and Bobo Integral Records) (2021)

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The Oh Boy debut album by Los Angeles based quintet, Massage, not only acquired a grower status that made it one of ‘the’ albums of 2019, but it also contained, Lydia, which is undoubtedly one of the best modern day jangle-pop tracks ever. The debut, was as wonderfully ‘jangly fey’ as you might expect from a band with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart connections in frontman Alex Naidus.
If you hanker after the sound of the debut, you will be delighted by At The End of The World and I Come Running. These are all fey, late 80s, jangly indie-pop, that would be totally reminiscent of acts like the Trembling Blue Stars and The Field Mice, complete with the total mastery of the Bob Wratten flat, isolated vocals. Of course every second band is doing indie-pop retro at present, but none really succeed quite like Massage.
However, the true success of this release is in how the band has developed and moved into other much more fully formed directions, that both have the mark of extra studio time stamped all over them, without ever losing the sense of immediate intimacy that has always been so redolent in their core aesthetic.
Initially, tracks such as Made of Moods, In Gray & Blue and Michael is My Girlfriend lead a new sound that moves towards the Quivers vibe of adding layers of modern jangle, traditional The Go Betweens indie-pop and just the slightest of folk-pop tinges. The juxtaposition of these provide a sound that moves away from any sense of fey and goes directly towards the perfect assured confidence of a band who appear to have instinctively located what they do best.
This stronger feel can also be seen in Half A Feeling, Sticks and Stones and 10 & 2, which feel slighter more dense in atmosphere and tone. It is almost as if the band have jumped into the space between where post-punk finshed and jangle-pop started. With hints of both styles coursing through the melodies, it is only the slightest application of gaze sensibilities, that prevent the sound being perfectly Dunedin in texture.
OK, so you have probably gathered that I am something of a Massage fanboy, even at this early stage in their career. However, even I was surprised at just how much they have developed in the three years since the debut. Simply wonderful stuff !
 

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2 comments

  1. Wow! The bass on “Still Life” gives it a strong New Order vibe… And I’m also hearing traces of Stone Roses. Love the guitars and harmonies on this!

    Like

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