Portastatic - Be Still Please

Be Still Please

The first bars of ‘Sour Shores’ wash over me and I’ve found a new musical favourite. Granted, I’m a fair few years behind the rest of the indie community in discovering the delights found in this project, but I’m here now, and it feels great. Portastatic is the solo recording alias of Mac McCaughan, one of the owners of the legendary label Merge (who brought The Arcade Fire, Lambchop, M.Ward and others to the world for the first time). McCaughan is also the lead singer of cult concern Superchunk, so here’s a guy with one serious musical pedigree.

This record is primarily acoustic-based, although splashes of colour (including an over-dubbed string section) punctuate various parts of the album. What we have here is classic pop songwriting in every sense. ‘I’m In Love (With Arthur Dove)’, which features the biggest-sounding arrangement on the album, is quite possibly the best example of 60’s psychedelia that these ears have heard all year. The bonus demo version of the song at the album’s conclusion merely serves to accentuate its potency.

As the tunes float by, we’re treated to yet more examples of simply seminal work. ‘Getting Saved’ and ‘Cheers and Applause’ in particular have me swooning as ‘Be Still Please’ cements itself in my mind as an album of the year contender. Moving from tender to aggrieved in (on occasions) less than one line, Mac’s vocals are effecting and perfectly suited to the soundscapes he creates, while backing vocals from Laura Cantrell and Annie Hayden serve only to augment the beauty already emanating from these songs. Album-proper closer ‘And I Was A Boy From School’ is perfect, a jaunty acoustic workout filled with snappy lyrics, drawing you in, before leaving you begging for more. And more you do get, with demo versions of ‘Sour Shores’ and ‘I’m In Love (With Arthur Dove)’ rounding out the collection.

As the press release intimates, it’s highly unlikely that this record will gain the wide recognition that some of MacCaughan more pre-eminent cohorts enjoy. That it will not is a travesty. Anyone who enjoys adventurous singer-songwriters or skewered, leftfield pop music should seek this release out immediately. Unreservedly recommended.

Guest article from Haydon S.

Written by Guest Writers on

Between 2003 and 2009, [the-mag] had regular contributors from music correspondents covering their local scene. You'll find them all in the guest writers section. The specific writer is mentioned at the bottom of each article.

Discover More Music