Twin River offer gateway to surf rock with Passing Shade

Passing ShadeOn first listen, Twin River’s Passing Shade may sound nothing more than a textbook garage rock record: a compilation of lazy, nostalgia driven tunes designed for West Coast road trips. However, after a few more listens, it becomes apparent that there is more to their sophomore album. Coming out of Vancouver, a city with a rich musical pedigree (Destroyer, Japandroids, Black Mountain, Prism, Ladyhawk), Twin River’s dreamy surf tunes sound more on the axis of Californian pop and Detroit rock’n’roll than recognisably Canadian. A steady composition of shimmering guitars and tremolo effects, Passing Shade’s sonic atmosphere leaves you with much to ponder over.

The album is not initially difficult to get your head around; it is breezy, tightly strung, and vibrant throughout. Opening track “Hesperus” is a splash of rumbling bass lines and dreamy vibrating guitars. It’s a bold and confident opening to the album. Like the strong opening flicks of an indie movie, “Hesperus” is filled with nostalgic dream-pop melodies. The more angsty and harmonically-charged “Antony” runs in the same vein as bands like The War On Drugs and Leif Erikson. The more mellow tracks, like “Known To Run” and the trickling “North”, sound murky and lost in a fug of existential melancholy.

Frontwoman Courtney Ewan’s vocals are relaxed and fatigued, like a stoner in the joyous and smoggy throws of spring break. Although Ewan’s vocals are purposely restrained, her lyrics hold a lot of emotional baggage. Her loneliness and sadness is candidly spread out on the poppy “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone”, in which her dampened voice shudders “I am talking to myself, cause I ain’t got nobody else, I don't wanna be alone again” as marching drums and a crash of guitars cry out into the song’s wrung-out climax.

Passing Shade is, however, an album with many gears, and the bass-heavy, full throttle “Baby” is made for the open road. Constructed around soaring riffs and vocal harmonies, the song displays another string in Twin River’s bow, as the band jump between soft dream-pop to pelting post-punk. The record’s centrepiece comes on the folky “Settle Down”, a loose and sultry homage to Fleetwood Mac. Marked by thumping snares, wailing guitars and breezy, wind-in-your-hair textures, it stands out as the most inspired and animated moment of the record. As dream-pop goes, the tracks are visceral and dynamic, but not overcooked. “Brooklyn Bowel”, the album’s most aggressive track, thumps away on solid toms and battered chords, but refrains from blowing out into full-pelt grunge rock.

Ready made for fans of Beach House, The War On Drugs and Alvvays, Twin River’s Passing Shade offers an easy gateway into the grooves of soulful expression, angry lyrics, and warm, surf-rock vibes. Released at just the right time of year, the album offers a glare of sunlight while remaining powerfully embittered, and is therefore not just your average garage-rock record.

Release: 17th June 2016, Self-release

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