Through the release of 2012’s Creature of an Hour, 2013’s Strange Pleasures, 2016’s Dead Blue and 2018’s Slow Air, the London-based dream pop act and JOVM mainstays Still Corners — vocalist and keyboardist Tessa Murray and multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter Greg Hughes — have sonically bounced between chilly and atmospheric synth pop and shimmering guitar-driven desert noir.
Slated for a January 22, 2021 release through Wrecking Light Records, the London-based JOVM mainstays’ fifth album The Last Exit sonically continues where its predecessor Slow Air left off — 11 songs centered around shimmering and carefully crafted arrangements of organic instrumentation and Tessa Murray’s smoky crooning. Thematically, The Last Exit takes the listener on a hypnotic journey filled with dilapidated and abandoned towns, mysterious shapes on the horizon and long trips that blur the line between what’s there and not there. “We found something out there in the desert – something in the vast landscapes that went on forever,” Greg Hughes says in press notes.
Interestingly, the album was brought into further focus as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines. “There’s always something at the end of the road and for us it was this album. Our plans were put on hold – an album set for release, tours, video shoots, travel,” Tessa Murray explains. “We’d been touring nonstop for years, but we were forced to pause everything. We thought the album was finished but with the crisis found new inspiration and started writing again.” Three of the album’s songs — “Crying,” “Static,” and “‘Till We Meet Again” were written during this period and they reflect upon the profound impact of isolation and the human need for social contact and intimacy.
The Last Exit’s first single, album title track “The Last Exit” is centered around a cinematic arrangement that evokes large, indifferent skies, dusty two-laned blacktop — twinkling keys, subtle blasts of shimmering steel pedal and harmonica, jangling guitar and a galloping beat paired with Murray’s gorgeous vocals and a soaring hook. And while sounding as though it could have been part of the Slow Air sessions, “The Last Exit,” manages to find the duo subtly pushing their sound towards the direction of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack.
Thematically, the song makes a subtle nod to classic Delta Blues, as its exhausted narrator inexplicably feels compelled to inexplicably get in her car and hit the road — without any particular destination in mind. And while written as a sort of love letter to the lover, she’s left behind, the song can also be read as a slow-burning, journey into purgatory.
Directed by the band’s Greg Hughes. the recently released video for “The Last Exit” is the last portion of the duo’s Road Trilogy, following the videos for “The Trip” and “The Message.” Inspired by the 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock, the video begins with Murray abandoning her stalled car and being pulled into the mysterious rocks of Joshua Tree. “In a world where everyone thinks all the corners of the map are filled in we like to suggest there’s something beyond that, something eternal in the landscape and in our psyche,” Tessa Murray explains. “Maybe you don’t see it every day but it’s there and that’s what we are trying to connect to.”