I’m going to have to do this one a little differently. Nouns put out a hell of a record here, and it’s definitely something else entirely. Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way first. Still is a record that is made up of songs that are the stories of four characters. There is Olivia, Oliver, J.D., and Jackson. Each are representative of different experiences and outlooks. All the songs are autobiographical to the characters, except for Oliver. His songs are just fantasies. Ok?
Olivia’s songs, “Fourteen” and “Little Slugger,” are positive in outlook. The former is a song about rape. Specifically that it happened, and how the character has pushed to define it and overcome it on her own terms. The latter is talking about growth and getting yourself over. How it might be painful, but it’ll be worth it.
Oliver’s songs, “Closer” and “Daydream,” are dark fantasies. He is an alienated character. The former is a fantasy about a school shooting, which ends with him saying “in the grand scheme of things it was just fine.“ The latter further contextualizes that. He is a character who feels powerless, but has crafted a fantasy where people actually know him. People are actually his friends. He actually feel like his life has a point.
Jackson’s songs, “Soccer Ball” and “Wreck,” are cynical and depressing. He is a character that is mad at the world, but is maybe too immature to really say why. He wants to die, but has connections to people who keep him around. Instead he uses other means of escape. Drug use seems to be the most prevalent.
The remaining songs (minus one) are J.D.’s songs. “I Feel As Though I’ve Failed,” “Fox Wound,” “Ghost Legs,” “Ski Mask,” and “I Still Want To Make You Proud.” His character arc is similar to Jackson’s. He is a less cynical, but more single minded. He also wants to die, but seems to be more serious about it. He is a more mature version of Jackson.
That is as much as I’ll talk about the lyrical themes. I won’t do it justice, and you should really listen to the record. Instead, let’s talk about the music. It’s all over the place. This is totally expected, as each song is a narrative of a different character. Of course the Olivia songs wouldn’t sound like the J.D. songs. There are fuzzed out, atmospheric songs (“Fourteen” and “Daydream”). There are aggressive punk rock jams (“Little Slugger,” “Fox Wound,” and “Ski Mask”). There is also a fair helping of experimental indie rock, post- genres, and general chaos throughout. It is a record that tells a story and lives and dies by making the music fit the theme. Nouns is a hell of a band, and are all the better for not limiting themselves to one things. This record reminds me of bands like Museum Mouth, Donovan Wolfington, and The Hotelier in a lot of places. Like those bands, Nouns can play however the fuck they feel without taking away from the record,
There is a lot of heart on this record. You can tell that Hunter Mann was working through a lot of shit while writing these songs. There has to be a lot of Mann in these characters. Whether it be an idealized version of self or a reflection on perceived shortcomings and angst. Album closer, “But I Can’t Stay Here” is written from Mann’s perspective, and it is a very open discussion on suicide.
This isn’t an easy record. It’s definitely not a fun time jam, or whatever. It is a very powerful exercise in catharsis. It is definitely a piece of work deserving of some attention.