New York City has GOASTT, Widowspeak, and Belle Mare. London has Big Deal. Charleston, South Carolina has Shovels & Rope. Famous indie duos or bands that were formed by the idea of two people. So who fits the bill in Vancouver, the burgeoning music city that is rivaling Montreal and Toronto as Canada’s hotbed for new music? One band that could make a legitimate claim to the Pacific Coast metropolis is Twin River, the brainchild of Courtney Ewan and Andy Bishop.
Their debut album, 2015’s Should The Light Go Out, was an eye-opener, as it displayed the band’s eclectic and diverse interests. From catchy garage pop to edgy folk- and psychedelic rock, Twin River was out to showcase they could play pretty much anything. Where the album lacked in focus, it made up for it with its anthemtic qualities and high entertainment value.
Shortly following the release of Should The Light Go Out, the duo temporarily parted ways, as Courtney headed to Montreal to study while Andy stayed put in Vancouver. Instead of weakening the bond between them, the two already dear friends (Courtney says their relationship is like a sibling one) became re-energized and ideas for their sophomore album came quickly. The result is Passing Shade, which is a more focused album than their debut. Gone are the edge and grit of their debut and in their place is a pop-rock sound that is much more polished and even at times euphoric.
The album is highlighted by “Antony”. Combining the lushness of DIIV’s indie rock, The War on Drugs’ reinvention of ’80s rock, and Blouse’s delicious pop-rock, Twin River have created a tantalizingly brilliant number that is easily among the best songs of the year. It is one that had us saying the trifecta – “Ooh!”, “Oh yeah!”, and “Yes!”
But “Antony” isn’t the only stellar song on Passing Shade. “Knife” builds on “Antony’s” ’80s pop-rock vibe, offering a catchy song about a person that constantly fills her mind. “Baby” takes on a more aggressive tone, but learning the lessons of their debut Twin River rein the song in and build the drama. The song is fantastically paced and matches the intensity heard on tracks by Wolf Parade and July Talk.
There are also a fair share of shimmering tunes. “Natural State” is Rilo Kiley / Jenny Lewis-esque with its ’60s folk-pop vibe that will have even the most stoic person bopping around. “I Don’t Want to Be Alone”, “Known to Run”, and the album’s closer, “The North”, slow things down, offering stirring ballads that will leave plenty of hearts fluttering. “I Don’t Want to Be Alone”, in particular, is stunning, as Courtney Ewan’s vocals take on a Katy Goodman (of La Sera) quality. The crystalline, shoegaze effects, meanwhile, are awe-inspiring, akin to the breathtaking allure of Dreamboat. “The North”, meanwhile, has an early Neko Case vibe, from the story of finding peace and a place to call home to the chirping of birds that concludes the album.
Although the decision to end the final song with the sound of birds may be puzzling at first, it is a fitting conclusion to an album at first blows you away with majestic songs but then sweeps you away with songs that are enchanting. In addition to how Passing Shades affects the listener, it is symbolic of where Twin River are today. After nearly seven years together, they have found peace with who they are as a band, creating stirring music that will have them recognized not just as one of Vancouver’s great bands and duos but the entire country’s.
Passing Shade is out now via Light Organ Records. Purchase the album on the band’s site, the label’s store, or iTunes (CAN | US | UK), Amazon USA, and eMusic. The album can also be streamed in its entirety on SoundCloud.
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