Still Life by Massage on Mt.St.Mtn. Records (the album cover is an illustration of a seaside landscape made largely with geometric shapes; there is no text or other information on the front of the sleeve).

Massage - Still Life

MT.ST.MTN. / TEAR JERK / BOBO INTEGRAL RECORDS

  • £19.99


Massage was supposed to be low-stakes, no big deal "anti-ambition," as Andrew Romano, guitarist and vocalist, put it. The L.A.-based jangle-pop group's first album, 2018's Oh Boy, was a sweet and simple weekend warrior's affair, or more specifically, an every-other-Monday one, as the band members gathered to bash out songs that offered messy but heartfelt tribute to their chosen heroes: The Feelies, the Go-Betweens, Twerps, Flying Nun. For Romano, not taking things too seriously is a dead-serious affair: “Nothing kills the kind of music we want to make faster than the sense that a band is trying too hard,” he says. 

The kind of music Massage makes - sunny, bittersweet, tender - is less a proper genre than a minor zip code nested within guitar pop. Take a little 'There She Goes' by the La's, some 'If You Need Someone' by the Field Mice; the honey-drizzled guitars from The Cure's 'Friday I'm In Love,' a Jesus & Mary Chain backbeat, and you're almost all the way there. Indie pop, jangle pop, power pop whatever you call it, pushing too hard scares the spirit right out of this sweet, diffident music, and Massage have a touch so light the songs seem to form spontaneously, like wry smiles. 

Still, on their sophomore effort, Still Life, they manage to take a quantum leap forward in songwriting, production, and depth, all somehow without seeming to try. These twelve deft songs are full of late-summer sunlight and deep shadows, pained grins and shared jokes, shy declarations of love and quietly nursed heartbreak. Still Life resurrects a brief, romantic moment in the late-'80s, right after post-punk and immediately before alt-rock, when it seemed like any scrappy indie band might stumble across a hit. 

When Andrew Romano and Alex Naidus first met in 2007, Naidus had just joined a band with his friends Kip Berman and Peggy Wang, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, that was about to stumble into many of them. When Naidus finally left Pains for L.A. in 2013, two hit albums and a few world tours later, he started playing with Romano to recapture the no-stakes, suburban-garage joy of making music for its own sake. It was "friendship incarnate," Naidus remembers. The other members came from within the friend circle Gabrielle Ferrer (keyboard/vocals) is Romano's sister-in-law, Michael Felix (drums) is one of Naidus’ best friends, and David Rager (bass) is a childhood friend of Felix’s. When Felix moved to Mexico City in early 2020, Naidus’ wife, Natalie de Almeida, stepped in. 

While the songs on Oh Boy were often written on the spot, in practice rooms, Still Life was more deliberate. Romano, Naidus, and Ferrer split the songwriting duties, sending each other demos by email, an arrangement that grew permanent when quarantine hit. The songs brought out competition, even if Romano teases Naidus for denying it. "I own it. I love it," he says. "When Alex sent me 'Made of Moods,' I was blown away. I thought it was the best thing he'd ever written. I got jealous, so I immediately wrote 'In Gray & Blue.’" 

The result is the finest batch of songs they've ever produced. From Naidus' velvet-lined JAMC tribute 'Half A Feeling' to Ferrer's Let It Be-era Replacements-tinged lament 'The Double' to Romano's 'In Gray & Blue,' these are gold-standard indie-pop gems from emerging masters of the form. Still Life glows with the sincerity and unfakeable warmth of the era they so lovingly channel. Like the best Gin Blossoms chorus you still remember, the songs on Still Life stir big, pure emotions, but beneath them, uneasy truths about adulthood linger, just below the surface. Maybe the exact mix of ringing guitars and two-part harmonies can chase those feelings away, or redeem them, for at least a minute or three. Massage won't stop trying. 

 

TRACKLIST: 
  1. Half a Feeling 
  2. Made of Moods 
  3. Sticks & Stones 
  4. Until 
  5. 10 & 2 
  6. I'm a Crusader 
  7. In Gray & Blue 
  8. Michael Is My Girlfriend 
  9. Anna 
  10. At the End of the World 
  11. The Double 
  12. I Come Running 

 

  • Limited first pressing of 250 copies on Coke-bottle green vinyl (UK only) 

 

 



also on Mt.St.Mtn. Records: 
Cindy - Free Advice   LP 
Flowertown - Flowertown   LP 

 

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