The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a gothic Victorian short horror story, detailing a young woman's descent into madness, or possibly supernatural possession, while sequestered in the gilded cage of a Victorian drawing room. It's considered a masterpiece of feminist horror, providing rich, detailed insights into what it was to be a woman in the Victorian age, the paradox of love as a prison, and lover as guardian/protector. Symbolically, this duality is captured with the juxtaposition of the lavish, ornate drawing room, which gradually shows its fangs, as the yellow wallpaper design takes on a sinister manifestation.
This gilded horror, this poisonous infatuation, is also the perfect duality to describe EP by Brooklyn’s six-piece Stills, a beautifully understated, sublime mixture of gorgeous vocal harmonies, laid-back shuffling grooves and occasional pyrotechnic flourishes of lead guitar.
"Yellow Walls" is the best place to start, to hear the blend. Bittersweet to the max, Katie Schottland's close harmonies tells the story of a damaging love, the dark side of infatuation, what happens when people turn on each other and tear themselves to pieces. Musically, however, it's as smooth as silk, the most gorgeous love song you've ever heard in your life. It'll bring a tear to your eye, while simultaneously shaking your bones.
Each of EP's four tracks has a similar blend of gorgeousness and maudlin melancholy, all delivered with a mellow groove that sounds as good on warm sunny days as gloomy, overcast afternoons.
People who like the immediacy and dreaminess of Beach House will freak out for Stills, a group that has updated from a folk duo to a full live juggernaut of six members. They also bear a resemblance to dreamy desert rockers Mojave 3, the remnants of shoegaze legends Slowdive that updated their sad, tragic sound with pedal steel filigree and banjo ornamentation.
Stills is wise to keep things slow, dreamy and grooving, rather than trying to push out of their comfort zone for bombast and ferocity. Often times, subtlety and quality speak louder than a thousand cannons and, in that way, Stills are screaming louder than an Arsenal soccer match. It just gets better and better, with each subsequent listen. Every element is perfectly polished and placed. Nothing is out of place, letting the spell take hold completely.
Let it wash over you. You'll be glad that you did!
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