How do you make a rock album seem refreshingly new in 2017? Well, Winnipeg garage-rock trio Mise en Scene has somehow managed it. Still Life on Fire is not only full of kick-ass rock songs, but it's also overflowing with honest-to-goodness thoughts and feelings.
In fact, the album’s thesis gets as much attention as any of the plentiful riffs. The band spends much of Still Life on Fire asking listeners to abandon apathy and figure out how to be present and engage with one’s own life.
“No matter how hard it gets or how easy it is to become a misanthrope in this world, there is still so much beauty and so much compassion,” singer-songwriter Stefanie Blondal Johnson says via press release. “It’s about looking in the right places and making sure that you be your best self.”
Blondal Johnson says she suffered a case of writer’s block while writing the album during her musicians’ residency at the Banff Centre while surrounded by classically trained musicians. A month into it, drummer Jodi Dunlop flew in for a visit, and Dunlop's DIY songwriting background helped get the creativity flowing. Through that process, Blondal Johnson, a self-taught singer and guitarist, learned that instead of following sheet music, she needed to trust her intuition.
“With songwriting, inspiration comes to you and you have to articulate that emotion and that feeling,” she explains. “We’re trying to crack the code of what we’re trying to say.”
Mise en Scene initially started off as a duo, releasing its debut album Desire’s Despair in 2012 before adding Cory Hykawy as a permanent member on bass. Now the trio is ready to unleash its second full-length on the world, with a fuller, more powerful sound.
The album’s first single, “Closer,” is a barn-burner of a song, and it's also accompanied by an absorbing video that portrays a bittersweet love story set against the backdrop of the adult film industry. It almost feels more like a short film.
Editor’s note: video contains violence and nudity.
Don’t just marvel at the video, however; this is one album you’ll want to listen to from start to finish. It’s an infectious, soaring effort and one of the most compelling albums you’ll hear this year.
Still Life on Fire will be released on June 30 via Light Organ Records.