Born and raised in the old walled city on the banks of the River Foyle, Conor Mason has been brought up swimming in musical heritage with both his parents heavily involved in local choirs and music jamborees in his beloved hometown of Derry, N. Ireland. “My da ran a choir (as his father did before him) and they used to rehearse in our home, my ma sang in the choir too and I used to listen in from the next room. Then around the age of 8, after my parents heard me playing by ear the music of an Irish mass my da had written, they dutifully sent me off for classical piano lessons. They were both music lovers, to the extent that even the small boat my da would take me and my brothers out fishing in was called „Iolanthe‟, named after the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera.” Standstill is in fact the third album from the Irish songwriter, with two previous offerings, Let It Unfold (2007) and When It’s Over (2009) suitably home-recorded and self-distributed freely through cyberspace, earning Mason a solid reputation in his native land with a host of television and radio support from BBC Northern Ireland. Standstill retains the mellow, home-grown, quality perfected on those records albeit with some new found scope, inherently familiar whilst always remaining fresh and extrinsic. When the opening bars of „Misunderstood’ complete with muted trumpets and unhurried acoustic strumming make way for the driving rhythm and rumbling piano, there‟s a glowing immediacy before the first lines leave Mason‟s lips, “made more sense, behind closed eyes, we were making plans and not taking advice”, sang in an unashamedly colourful yet seductively subtle brogue, the song boasts an alluring punch-the-air quality without ever sounding forced. ‘Lights’ reinforces this plaintive but hopeful raison d‟être, and on „Words’, Mason‟s gorgeously nuanced vocals, fragile but beautifully phrased, are particularly well served by the production, sitting right in the centre of the mix, every subtle inflection clear to the listener. “Standstill represents the big race up the hill of self-actualisation, some get to the top no sweat and some get so far and plateau, others are constantly going back down to begin the climb again” With a crisp vision of beautifully arranged dynamic landscapes Mason excels on the album‟s sparse title track – an acoustic version of which is available on vinyl from Never Records - lending a clarity to which his vocal hooks are delivered with sweet sincerity. He floats over simple and compelling melodies, intricate instrumentation and whimsical, but never trite choruses with an ease bordering on ambivalence. It‟s with this gentility that Mason comes over so charmingly genuine as on the harmonica led, „Out of the Blue’, an ode in itself to sincerity and what it means to people (“somewhere between the head and the heartache sincerity hides / somewhere between the heart and the headache sincerity hides”), and the breezy pace of „5AM’ where swirling synthesizers enter into the fray and delicate brass enrich the sonic template, complimenting Mason‟s mellifluous vocal. Lush flowing melodies continue to take flight on the introspective lullaby-like „Sundown’ and the startling „Last To Leave’ with it‟s minimal but wonderfully transcendent sound leaving plenty of room for a melody so natural sounding, it glides along with a touch of class. Understated and refined Standstill doesn‟t reveal all of its treasures at once, the songs augmented with tastefully layered instrumentation and playful, inconspicuous production. Unperturbed it plays out in no rush, possessing a relaxed, pastoral feel comparative to that of The Shins or Badly Drawn Boy‟s finest work. The final two songs, the lilting waltz of ‘In The Doorway’ and the contemplative ‘A Picture of Farewell’ reiterate the themes that permeate the record. That of the cyclic humdrum that hypnotises so many, and the niggling insecurities and attachments - be it a lover, a family, a town or a job - that so often thwart people from seizing the day. “All this stillness, and all this steadiness, has left you here alone”, he sings before offering up some hope with the closing lines, “now we set out in search of a sign / we set out in search of an explanation” as the gorgeous harmonica coda-line takes over, the record befits it‟s moniker and comes to a standstill, downbeat but affectionately uplifting. It may seem somewhat foolish to be peddling a press release for an artist that proclaims, “I don‟t need a stamp of approval from anyone, you can take it or leave it”, as Conor Mason does on opener „Misunderstood‟. Yet despite this strident declaration, the quality and warmth of Mason‟s voice and the obvious care taken in his song-writing serve only as a counter to his claim, instead revealing a tunesmith with a collection of songs so tender that they could turn even the most cold hearted cynic into a hopeless, desperate romantic. "The tunes are full of sweet patterns, reminders of Paul McCartney circa A Hard Day's Night or maybe Elliott Smith, playing it woefully true on Either/Or.” Stuart Bailie, BBC Northern Ireland.