"Logic Will Break Your Heart," the 2003 debut from Montreal's the Stills, did a better job than most current retro-minded pretenders at capturing the shimmer, shine and mopey melodic grace of '80s col

"Logic Will Break Your Heart," the 2003 debut from Montreal's the Stills, did a better job than most current retro-minded pretenders at capturing the shimmer, shine and mopey melodic grace of '80s college rock. Yet for all its massive minor key hooks and hip cachet, the disc still somehow slipped between the cracks of several waves of new New Wave acts. Maybe it was for the best, since the group's second album "Without Feathers" indicates its heart might not have been in the '80s after all.

Out is much of the minor key gloom, and in is sunny, major-key pop (and, perhaps not coincidentally, the upgrading of drummer Dave Hamelin to guitarist and singer, alongside primary vocalist Tim Fletcher). The first few minutes of the first song, "In the Beginning," alone reveal a strong melodic sensibility previously masked by the all the moodiness. That's a good thing. As "The Mountain" scales anthemic heights you start to further think the Stills may be onto something by ditching the fashion plate influences. The piano-led power-ballad "She's Walking Out" reaffirms that belief, and the winning likes of "Halo the Harpoon," "Destroyer" and "It Takes Time" are upbeat ditties in the best sense.

Sure, by abandoning the gloom and doom and embracing quirky power-pop, the Stills seem to have morphed into a less minimalist Spoon, and your replay mileage may vary based on how strongly you liked what they were doing before. But in a time when bands indie and major alike play it safe by doing the same thing again and again, it's somewhat inspiring to find a band apparently willing to throw away the map and start their musical journey anew. Yeah, the new journey isn't terribly adventurous, or, for that matter, terribly new, but if you can tap your foot to it, what's the harm? -- Joshua Klein

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