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Still Life
LP $16.35


MTN 31 

***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—Romano, ALEX NAIDUS (ex-PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART), GABRIELLE FERRER, MICHAEL FELIX, DAVID RAGER, NATALIE DE ALMEIDA— gathered to bash out songs that offered messy but heartfelt tribute to their chosen heroes: The Feelies, the Go-Betweens, Twerps, Flying Nun. The kind of music Massage makes—sunny, bittersweet, tender—is less a proper genre than a minor zip code nested within guitar pop. 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 12 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. The result is the finest batch of songs they've ever produced—these are gold-standard indie-pop gems from emerging masters of the form.The lyrics are downcast, empathetic, and quiet, little sketched portraits of evanescent feelings.