Still Life Still @ Mercury Lounge

NEW YORK, NY—A second wave of highly motivated sharp-skilled Canadian indie pop combos—encouraged by the universal underground success of Broken Social Scene, the Stars, and the Dears—have arrived fully formed. At the top of the heap, Toronto quintet Still Life Still, friends since grade school, became so musically focused they mutually dropped out of high school to pursue their ambition full time.

With ‘09’s suggestively titled long-play debut, Girls Come Too!, the hard-working unit may prove to be respected indie label Arts & Craft’s best new fine yet. At trusty diminutive Manhattan venue, Mercury Lounge, Still Life Still offered two early evening 45-minute sets on consecutive autumn nights that fulfilled their promise and validated their rep. Though slightly nervous playing for the first time ever in the Big Apple, the longtime friends settled in nicely and attracted more enthusiastic people the second night.

Colliding simple innocent pop elegance against ‘80s-related emotional hardcore and less pungent metallic grunge, they go from spangling pop charmers to scrappy heavy rock wranglers inside the course of a three-minute tune. Shaking heads in unison, eyes covered by long bangs, guitarists’ Brendan Saarinen (main composer) and Eric Young sang in a heartfelt manner, bringing cooing moans and urgent purrs to terse arrangements that oft-times hit majestic heights. Husky drummer Aaron Romaniuk pounded out incessant beats above tambourine-shaking keyboardist Josh Romaniuk’s colorful textural designs and bassist Derek Paulin’s adventurous silvery patterns.

Endearing come-on, “Pastel,” begged for something more than friendship as Saarinen and Young’s creamy unison harmonizing climaxed with insinuative imploration “I wanna make you come.” And their first night finale recalled My Bloody Valentine with its detuned guitar drone, chewed-up melodic blur, and scuzzy bass distortion. The following night, Still Life Still sneaked in a few newer tracks including a serene dreamscape with big bass drum beats and another that loaded oscillating synthesizer sounds and curlicue pedal affects into a neo-orchestral piece.

After kibitzing with the band the first night, they mentioned being back in early 2010 for a series of New York dates sure to please a larger audience of newly converted American fans.