Sometimes you like a thing for large cultural reasons, or because it does something different than other art of its type, or it reveals a greater truth about something, or any hundred other English-major reasons to write criticism. Other times, you like something because it reminds you of something else that you like. It’s reductive, but its also honest. My fondness for Told Slant’s Still Water lay in the latter.
If you like edgy,introspective folk music, odds are good you’ll like Still Water. Odds are even greater still if, like me, you have a fondness for a specific kind of Modest Mouse song. The don’t make this kind of song much anymore (they probably backed away from it around Good News for People who Love Bad News), but for a while, Issac Brock and co. would wind off desperate little pop songs about life, loss, marriage and personal need. Think tracks like “Baby Blue Sedan,” “Trailer Trash,” “Novocain Stain” and “Make Everyone Happy/Mechanical Birds” and you’ve got the vine that Told Slant is tapping into. The band matches those same guitar tones, hits those same vocal notes, touches on the same ponderous life questions. It does a number of things very well, but for my money, its real appeal is in scratching and itch that hasn’t been reached since the early 2000s.