Unfolding as a fever-dream of escape onto the open road, Still Corners Tessa Murray and Greg Hughes’s newest album The Last Exit is a hypnotic journey into the depths of their self-called desert noir sound. Like the dreamy and terrifyingly large natural world of Lord Huron‘s Strange Trails, poised with unexplored expanses and hiding dark woes, The Last Exit is as much an album that seeks to escape the world around us even as it drives deeper into another.
Like the liminal spaces that connect pieces of civilization across a desert, each song on The Last Exit glimmers pointing towards something on the horizon, a moment or feeling, and meanders towards it with a paced introspection.
Even though the album begins with the titular track, “The Last Exit” underscores the understanding that the journey doesn’t end with an escape. Lulled into a world that starts to blur the line between the scenery and our own mind and imagination, the album builds a melancholic soundscape that mirrors the dilapidated and empty landscape that might surround you on such a road.
“Crying” perfectly captures the catharsis that comes with such moments, a gloomy melody that aches with sadness but is made sublime via Murray’s softly cooed vocals. “Till We Meet Again” and “A Kiss Before Dying” unfold like smoldering slow-dances, the soft rumble of their woozy instrumentation slipping you deeper into the album’s encroaching melancholy.
“White Sands” and “Mystery Road” pick up the pace as these shimmering anthems, odes to the tireless escape itself and the ceaseless drive to nowhere that comes with an open road. “White Sands,” tells the story of a phantom lost in the dunes of the desert, spending eternity haunting travelers across the deserted land, like a wraith embodying all the things we try to escape by driving through it in the first place.
“Mystery Road continues that anxious drive into the desert, its driving guitar rhythms mirroring all the racing emotions and fears that come with the escape; and ending up in a place where reality, dreams, and even nightmares start to collide in strange ways.
“Static” cuts into the loss of connection and loneliness of the road, its glowing guitars little bursts of light in the dark; while “Old Arcade,” the album’s last track, marks a full-circle return back to the self as Murray murmurs about the memory of an arcade and a lost love.
The Last Exit successfully creates an intimate world out of the Murray and Hughes’ infatuation with the desert and its ability to reflect back to us all the things we try to run from. It’s soundscapes, built on a mix of folk and Still Corners’ special brand of noir, are sublime and expansive like the desert itself; it’s an album created specifically for losing yourself on a drive when you feel like going nowhere.