ARTIST: The Twin Atlas
RELEASE: Big Spring
RELEASE DATE: 20/05/16
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
The genre of folk has its origins rooted deeply in the historical context of music. It’s as old as genres come; utilized by generations of musicians and consumed by millions of listeners, and while artists are constantly coming up with new approaches and original song structures, they are having to search more and more deeply for a crafted, bona fide sound. The beauty of folk music is that it can take on so many different faces; it is one of the most versatile styles of music to mix with other genres to create a colourful and thoughtful sound. The Twin Atlas have tried to do just this, mixing and strumming away at various sounds and styles on their latest album, Big Spring. Ultimately, their search for textured resonance makes for an interesting and engaging listening, even when the journey veers from the path every now and then. ‘The Twin Atlas’s – Big Spring’ is the first piece of music from the band in five years, following a hiatus of sorts in 2010. Despite this, the New Jersey alternative folk duo have accumulated songs over that period of inactivity; which has culminated in Big Spring; a full-length album of soothing and distant folk-pop tunes.
The album opens with ‘Let Go’, with its swaying guitar and almost psychedelic drums, accompanied by a Hawaiian sounding guitar plucking in the background. This track puts subtle emphasis on background sounds and tiny spinning tones that pop into the mix. ‘Let Go’ is a brilliant listen, almost nostalgic in beauty; the soundtrack to relaxation upon a distant shore, under the sun, effortless and dreamy. In this sense, the track pushes the boundaries between dream pop and folk; almost creating an intelligent hybrid for the listener. Perhaps the only real element that appears less engaging in the collage of exquisitely dreamy sounds are the lyrics. While the singing and the vocal style accompany the sound immensely, the lyrics sound unpolished and slight in the grand scheme of the song. Things get quite interesting on the following track ‘Long Way’, which lasts a gigantic fifty eight seconds. When I listened I thought ‘okay, that was just a little insert track for the fun of it’… But then, after listening to the entire album, I noticed the brilliance of slotting in such a tiny, small song on the album; it provides an almost lo-fi touch to the album. This very piece of music acts as a fantastic contrast to other tracks, injects the album with a sense of almost low-key punk atheistic and also reminds the listener of the all the different tricks an intelligent alternative band can play with.
‘Atlantic’ is a neat piece of indie folk, with brilliantly textured vocals and a soaring undertone that nestles the song in the realms of Tell No Foxx style indie folk. The closing chords and notes are contrasted with a wavering synth sound that closes the track much the same way it started; creating a reflective style song. The reverb of ‘Starred’ begins well but pulsates into a frustrating sound that comes across like a draft, or structured ideas that never mix to fruition. ‘Ride Upon’ is another short gem, and perhaps the heaviest sounding song on the album; here, there lacks a dreamy vocal or bright guitar, rather, the song sounds contemplative. This makes for another well positioned song; as the dreamy tones of the albums previous tracks begin to seem re-used and re-used, The Twin Atlas slot ‘Ride Upon’ into the middle of the album and recalibrates their own listeners. ‘Always With You’ is another album highlight. It is also one of the fullest sounding tracks on the album, instrumentally, as the drums blast away fillers and twist their sound together to create a tight knit and well produced song. Intelligently, The Twin Atlas then reverse their aesthetic and follow ‘Always With You’ with the slow ‘Your Reflection’, which sounds (albeit for the vocals) like a different band altogether. Its two minute run time is punctured with a slight drum beat that couples the strumming slowly and beautifully, the well written lyrics help put the song together as well.
‘In Yesterday’ is distinctly clichéd and for a moment I thought the final two tracks would end with little imagination; as if the band were to decide that they should climb back in their straight forward comfort zone… But the final track was just the opposite. With the boring ‘In Yesterday’ still in the ear, ‘Over Easier’ arrived and closed the album; poignantly, effortlessly and utterly mesmerizing in its unity to the drifting island pop/indie folk the band has searched for on the album. This closing track sways off into horizon, surrounded by palm trees and sand, with a two minute oscillate outro; fantastic. This may be the greatest track on the album and stands as evidence that song placement on an album or EP is utterly integral.
Big Spring has its rough patches; it’s clichéd frolicking, the unrefined lyrics on some songs and its iterated sounds (especially vocals) but all in all, its strengths shine through on the most part. I thought on an initial listen that the album (especially the vocals) had a genius streak of impassiveness about it, but on another listen I noticed the prevalent indie-ness that flooded this out. I believe that a touch of emotionless styling could have influenced the music in an even more alternate way; and this thought was often revisited while listening to Big Sun. In the same vein, I believe the band never play off their lo-fi or micro song inclinations enough; keeping the music in a relatively straight forward style. Although ultimately the music lies in the hands of the band, there is just so much potential within this album. Praise must be given to the production and mixing, which sounds crisply clean and compliments the layered instruments substantially. And the album does have some brilliant and beautiful highlights and songs, with the writing of the songs to be of equal praise. With Big Spring, The Twin Atlas have carved a neat sounding piece of indie folk, inspired by the sounds of desert pop and the bright strum and pondering of layered alternative rock. They evoke images of islands, deserts and landscapes through tone, production and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.