Mac McCaughan has proven that there is life after Superchunk, or at least while it’s on hiatus. Still applying the same methodology to music making in Portastatic as he has done in the past, McCaughan layers his vocals over a basic melody and lightly sprinkled instrumental embellishments that conjure up images of easy flowing ocean waves and lightly moving winds blowing through meadows. The neo-psychedelic pop utopia he produces in his latest release Be Still Please is fashioned with all the good things he has come to enjoy about music.
The vintage `70s pop psychedelics he implements in tunes like “Sour Shores” and “Black Buttons” have a George Harrison-like intonation. The violin embellishments add soft textures while keeping a finger-snapping rhythm. The lyrics have a youthful wit and intelligence similar to The Essex Green, like in the track “I’m In Love,” stringing lines of lyrical wordplay: “Baby your hard science doesn’t get to me/ When I’ve got a painting of biology/ I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love/ I’m in love with Arthur Dove/ Trees, birds, barns, cows and trees/ I know that nature won’t save the likes of me/ But in a watery pasture I can graze for free.” The tune is swathe in titillating guitar mandrels and upbeat vocals.
The simplicity in McCaughan’s melodic phrasings have an Elf Power ring while harnessing his own bucolic chimes. He reclines into sessions of lounging Brazilian missives with tunes like “Sweetness And Light” and “Like A Pearl,” which resound with a Feist-like suaveness. The `60s style percussion on “Getting Saved” and “You Blanks” are crowned by a Bob Dylan-pensive mist in the vocal melodies. The spurts of wind-sounding oboe clips, shanks of tambourines, and squawking guitars on “You Blanks” have a folksy territorial. The cello rising on “Like A Pearl” gives the melody an ascending quality while the heavier tones on “Cheers And Applause” cast the number in a hazy ether. The dithering movements on “Song For A Clock” give the folk ballad a small pulse through the Arcadian-like violin sections.
Portastatic’s latest release makes use of classical elements like the oboe, violin, piano, and cello and brands them into an acoustic folk/pop mix. Be Still Please may not necessarily be groundbreaking music as much as it keeps McCaughan’s grounded principles of creating a musical utopia from simple melodies and lightly sprinkled embellishments.