Published Jun 28, 2017Winnipeg rockers Mise En Scene are back with their sophomore full-length, Still Life on Fire. The title seems to convey the paradoxes this record is about: calm acceptance of how life is, but with an underlying burning, persistent passion.
After the pretty intro, in which lead singer Stefanie Blondal Johnson intones "I don't wanna lie," the ragged passion becomes apparent from her scream 13 seconds into "Closer." While Johnson is capable of a husky snarl almost reminiscent of the Distillers' Brody Dalle, she can also deliver soaring, clear melodies along the lines of Neko Case with just as much vigour.
Musically, this record delivers gritty guitars, punchy rhythms and catchy melodies (see the falsetto "ooh" parts on "Guts/Glory" and "Scout"). "I'm Ok" and "Still Life on Fire" offer some breathing room and lyrical vulnerability, as Johnson shares her search for purpose. "I'm Ok" starts with the lines "I don't know where I'm gonna go from here / The constellations aren't clear."
The album ends on a bright point, with the chiming glockenspiel and ringing guitar chords of "Same Hearts" evoking stereotypical Springsteen, including the use of the title phrase as evocative chorus lyrics. While press materials mention Johnson's residency at Banff Centre for the Arts and seem to partially attribute her subsequent writer's block to being surrounded by classical musicians and sheet music, she turns this around at the end of the record, by including a lush, classically orchestrated outro that carries on the chords from "Same Hearts."
Personal and artistic growth is evident here, but it seems like Mise En Scene have managed to stay true to themselves along the way. (Light Organ)