The idea that Portastatic is now Mac McCaughan’s primary creative outlet is abundantly clear on their ninth album, Be Still Please, a record that manages to curtail both his chops as one of indie-rock’s premiere songwriters and as his recent forays into film scoring. Vast and adorably catchy, McCaughan shows tremendous signs of forward movement while traveling down directions that he probably wouldn’t have been able to within the confines of the Superchunk line-up.
Kicking things off with the sweeping orchestration of “Sour Shores” (mp3), the listener can imagine how his former band would have turned the chorus into an Orange amplifier crunch-fest. Instead, it’s the punctuation of strings and acoustic guitars that’s in the forefront. Occasionally, there’s a fair amount of “I wonder if Superchunk will ever get back together…” when he does this, but more often, there are times when you’re positively glad the amplifiers are switched off.