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Portastatic:: Be Still Please (Album Review)

Does Mac McCaughan ever rest? After a decade and a half as the mastermind behind a majority of Superchunk’s contagious catalog, the North Carolinian carries on his prolificacy with Portastatic–essentially McCaughan handling all instrumental chores except for an ever-slight and gyratory cast of musicians. Unable to pen and record a clunker amidst his handsome ballads and cascading rockers, McCaughan coalesces sugar-coated melodies with personal, often uproarious lyrics that can make his 40-something voice sound half its age. “Oh, you had some information that you turned into a hymn/That you sang into the answering machines of all your friends/But they never got the message,” he sings on “Black Buttons” beneath the delicate accompaniment of violin, oboe, and backing vocals by Laura Cantrell. The gentle acoustic-led folk song is one of several low-key gems, which split the nine-tune record with uptempo delights like “I’m in Love (With Arthur Dove)” and the utterly iridescent “Cheers and Applause.” As he cries out “Spinning, spinning, and no one’s as desperate as me,” perhaps McCaughan could take his own advice and, as the title suggests, be still. But–selfishly–let’s hope he doesn’t.
(Scott Holter)