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The Stills

Without Feathers (Vice Records)



A theme: "It's nice to see you moving on/I know it's hard to carry on." That's the Stills' frontman David Hamelin on "In the Beginning," the opening cut from his Montreal band's sophomore outing, Without Feathers. His is a strident tone, offering encouragement above a traveling-song snare trot and infectious B-3 organ fills, singing about exploding into the world with vigor and confidence.

This isn't the Stills we first met on Logic Will Break Your Heart, then a stylized Canadian band that took Travis' lack of subtlety, circumstantial metaphors, and wide-eyed mope and married it to the guitar metallurgy of moody N.Y.C. bands. If Logic seemed like an attempt to mine then-current indie rock trends, Without Feathers does much the same down a parallel path. But the attempt at the triumphant epic sweep and lift of Neutral Milk Hotel ("Oh Shoplifter") or the hook-savvy ease of Montreal brethren Wolf Parade ("Destroyer") is subsumed in Hamelin's overwhelming need to cast his all-consuming, alternating hope and dejection (the cover depicts a bouquet of flowers in flames) in pure banality ("The time has come to part/ So I leave you with this heart").

Sure, the Stills moved on and fell without feathers, but there's enough here to warrant carrying on.

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