Monday, June 27, 2016

Pitstop: Lofty Stills

photo by May Xiong
The Internet is strange and marvelous thing. While an effective tool for seeking out new music and following promising new leads, it's also responsible for those strange moments of happenstance that introduces me to new music writers and new acts purely based off of an mutual interest. That's essentially how I came into contact with Luke Culbertson of Lofty Stills. After sending a series of tweets out into the ether about my incredibly mixed feelings about the new Night Beds material, Culbertson casually engaged as a mutual fan of their work and we would chat intermittently about where our heads were at at different stages of our consumption of the new Night Beds record. It was some time before I even found out Luke was a musician and that's probably for the best. If Luke had actively tried to promote his material to me from the get go, I most likely wouldn't have checked it out. Only when it was offered as kind of an afterthought, was my interest piqued.

So of course it was a funny thing that I found Culbertson's project Lofty Stills to be incredibly reminiscent of early Night Beds and Winston Yellen's friends from his time in Colorado Springs Lovelier Other. But there's more to Lofty Stills than being a Night Beds soundalike - meshing a twangy sound with a smooth dream pop tapestry, Culbertson's project continues a tradition of folk oriented bedroom pop with production that belies the simplicity of its creation and that Yellen has since abandoned in favor of electronic experimentalism. Culbertson's arrangements are lush without overwhelming Culbertson's delicate emotive tenor; his vocal harmonies doing the majority of the heavy lifting. Lofty Stills' songs arrive and leave in majesty vocal flourishes flooded with raw emotive force and yet there's no doubt Culbertson crafts his songs with meticulous precision. It's production is svelte but not too polished, spotlighting the roots in folk and country over Culbertson's electronic know how. His use of samples like Connee Boswell's "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" in "How Wrong I Was" a subtle compliment instead of a jarring distraction.

Culbertson's self-titled EP is a stunning collection of songs brimming with beguiling intimacy and winsome sincerity and musicianship. In fact, the only problem I can seem to find with it, in my growing number of repeat plays, is in its brevity: Culbertson's song have almost depressingly short life cycles flowering and withering like a spring ephemeral. Here's hoping there's more from Lofty Stills to come and soon.

Lofty Stills' self-titled EP is out now and available to stream/download via his Bandcamp.

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