Despite this being his third album, Conor Mason is not a name many will be overly familiar with. Growing up in the historic walled city of Derry, music has been present in his life from a young age. Mason has now found his space on the musical landscape, not dissimilar to that occupied by luminaries Matthew Jay or Elliott Smith.
Standstill continues where 2009’s When It’s Over left off. It flows gently by, amid a sea of soft lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation. It is permeated by an air of richness, comforting tranquillity and shrouded in melancholy.
While it is predominantly an acoustic affair, the beautiful soft acoustic ballads of ‘Standstill’, ‘Sundown’ and ‘Last to Leave’ lead the way. There is a willingness to branch out beyond the simplicity of ballads. ‘Misunderstood’ is much more ‘indie-rock’, as is ‘Words’ which begins softly with hushed vocals before picking up pace and descending into a Coral-esque freak out, yet neither sound out of place. It is this and Mason’s preference for embracing the whispering delicacies of mood and lyrical emotion, which bind the album and prevent it from slipping into tedium.
Standstill is a slow burner with Mason rarely going beyond first gear. It requires patience, understanding and repeated listens to be fully appreciated. Standstill is a beautiful, simplistic and assured album and sometimes that is quite enough.