HEY, GUESS WHAT ALBUM JUST CAME OUT!
I’m excited! You’re excited! We’re all excited! It’s about damn time for us all to be hurled into the next dimension by Twin Fantasy with real equipment! Granted, Will produced this album sitting in an actual plastic lawn chair, but nostalgia is important, I guess. Anyways, it’s here! Without further ado: the best album of 2011; 2018 edition!
My Boy (Twin Fantasy) – It opens with silence, then the dull thud of a kick drum and sticks, mixed smooth as hell. The bass joins in, Will’s voice rises up quietly out of the instrumentals, you’re fully absorbed in this experience, the guitars come in with a springtime-light quality, the vocals slip into falsetto, this song is exactly what you wanted all along, and then ELECTRIC GUITARS. Not fuzzed-out electric guitars. You are listening to Twin Fantasy without fuzziness, to be expected, but- what is happening. One gets the feeling listening to the “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba”s that there was a crescendo that they somehow missed. Something got kind of lost in translation from the second verse to the third, and subsequently the third to the ending. The kick drums aren’t warranted, the screaming isn’t warranted, nothing… happened. There’s no bridge through any part of this song, and it sounds like it passed in 30 seconds instead of 3 minutes.
Beach Life-In-Death – Why, you ask, why are the vocals the loudest part while also being the flattest. I am completely unsure. The mild confusion from earlier is relatively tamed by the instrumental portion around 1:15, where that bass comes in and you kind of notice the drums. Andrew and Seth are consistently fantastic. So is Ethan, but someone fucked up with the volume knobs or something. It’s going a little shakily until you realize that the song starts when Will screams “DOGS!” for some reason. Everything before that is mixed in a bit of a strange order and and it’s slower than usual to the point of being unnerving. The rest of part 1 is pretty unremarkable, and the 2011 nostalgia overrides the actual quality upon first listen. Part 2, however, is all handled excellently and welcomed with open arms, notably when the guitar really comes back in around the 7:00 mark and starts getting fast and loud at the same time, which is how it was supposed to be in the first place. The new lyrics are performed wonderfully, and the bridge into the satanist-with-braces verse is reassuring. The guitar blast into part 3 improves each time I listen to it, but it’s perpetually for some reason in the rhythm guitar slot instead of the lead. The added guitar flourishes definitely contribute something good here as a sidenote. The ending is actually done nicely, which is good since I was kind of afraid of it before listening since it relies pretty heavily on the Garageband aspect on Mirror to Mirror. It’s a dick move from beyond to blame Will for not singing emotionally, since obviously there’s loads of context behind it, but man, this album sounds like it doesn’t want to exist so far if you focus on that. It gets better past this song, but, shaky start.
Stop Smoking (We Love You) – Out of the gate the vocals are more pleasing than anything else heard so far. The layering is constructed better than I’d have figured, and it creates an effect that’s unexpected but not necessarily in a bad way. It functions as a palate-cleanser on Face to Face like it did originally on Mirror to Mirror, but somehow in a totally different way, like quality (of performance) instead of quantity (of sheer minutes). There’s not a lot to say about this one, being that it’s 1:29 long. I will point out that somebody had a liiiittle too much fun trying to balance all the sounds out when they were producing this record, and this song is a good microcosm of that, but it actually carries itself out with dignity.
Sober To Death – WHOA. Those acoustic guitars are REALLY moody. It’s exactly the right mood, too, and the thing is that everything about this intro is pretty damn near perfect if it wasn’t for the solitary wobbled bass note trying to wedge itself in there. It forces you to focus on it, and then you’re not listening to the other aspects of the music. The vocals are sung with emotion that leads me to believe that Will figured out how to act like he cared around “Stop Smoking.” That sounds douchey. I promise it’s a good thing. Another thing to note is that Andrew Katz is literally too good of a drummer to be drumming on this album. Twin Fantasy is not a ‘good-at-drums’ album, Twin Fantasy is looped and fuzzy and over-warm and giddily pulling for average. This is none of those things, and I recognize the “remake” part of this whole experiment, but it falls a tad flat on the execution. The chorus, again, would be excellent if not for the falsetto in the background. Ethan does a great job with the backup vocals, and I kind of wish he’d done the ones in the chorus along with Will’s lead. The bridge between the second verse and the second chorus is… just… enjoyable. Flat-out enjoyable. I am a big, big fan of the instruments dropping out during “crash into each other.” The way the outro is written has a good pace to it, and it’s worked in a way that recalls Mirror to Mirror while also being something new. Props to this one.
Nervous Young Inhumans – This song was good since it came out as a single. The electronic quality is one of the most well-carried-out things on the entire record, from the looping intro all the way through the instrumentals and the verses. The bass is also back to being a smooth undercurrent rather than kind of uncomfortable. The Mirror to Mirror version of this song is the weakest track on that album, and this song is the ONLY one that has any glimmer of the “fixed” quality to it that I’ve been told the band wanted to create. The guitar noise is also done incredibly well on this track. The monologue is not only well-written and well-delivered, but also has the “galvanistic/galvanic” piece of trivia behind it, which is hilarious. The guitar behind the spoken-word portion also ties into it very well. I don’t have a single problem with this song.
Bodys – VERY UNEXPECTED, VERY UNEXPECTED, VERY UNEXPECTED, WHAT IS HAPPENING. This song is a rollercoaster. The synth-y bass-drum-y thing that’s going on in the beginning is super fucking weird, I’ll honestly put it like that, and by the time the riff comes in for the first time you’re kind of deciding how best to express the discomfort this song is immediately creating. It sounds like one of the demos Will posts on tumblr when he’s screwing around in Logic or something. However! Then the riff starts in the lead guitar spot and that little piece of background noise comes in, and that’s still just as catchy as it ever was. The vocals in this song have long since hit the mark of caring, so they’re going down smooth. The drums in here actually work as well-performed. The chorus(es? “Bodys” sort of defeats song structure) is/are handled JUST how they should be, and the new lyrics in the “this rope has grown old and bitter” part are a nice touch. I’ll admit the first time I heard this version of the song I hated it to an extreme degree, but the more I listen the more I start to develop a soft spot for it. I suppose that’s true for the whole record. It’s still a song that you’d want to play at full volume and scream along to, and actually the sentimentality stops mattering, which is kind of interesting. Give this one time, I promise. (also always a fan of that sick-ass 1TraitDanger content.)
Cute Thing – Definitely the remake portion of this experiment in the first few seconds. Perhaps the polar opposite of the original intro is the single-strummed chords and lower vocals, which are somewhere in between the cloud-9 ecstatic hollering on the original and the gentle sad picking of most of the recent live versions. The electric guitars kick into gear right after that, and then it’s loud and hollering and excellent. More new lyrics, including a nod to Frank Ocean (and he’s gonna cover “White Ferrari” live!). This is a little like “Nervous Young Inhumans” in the sense that it just sounds like the old song but higher quality. The newly stuttered lines where they should have been stuttered the whole time are pretty satisfying, and in general they did a really good job here, including the fadeout of the vocals during “I am loved” and the new little outro. It ties in very well to the next track.
High To Death – I was anticipating this one VERY highly. (Ha.) The original song relies almost entirely on the shitty-Garageband aspect of it, where the song feels like it’s crumbling underneath you while you’re listening to it, so it was a little anxiety-inducing to think about how they handled it this time around. There’s very little reverb in this version, but it works. It’s sticky-sounding, and the exact mood that’s being shot for is a sticky sadness. Again, like “Sober To Death,” the drums are a little too smooth for this song, but there’s so much else that’s pleasant to focus on that that ends up being fine. There’s a song or two on this record where the idea to call back the old versions and still create something new fell short, but this is not one of those. I really, really like the kid shouting in the middle and the art portfolio recording at the end, as well as the snippet from “Overexposed (Enjoy)” at the end to replace the part from “Jugband Blues” that they couldn’t use anymore. It’s an excellent lead-in to Stars and I think the point on the record when it really does become something more than Twin Fantasy. Sidebar, this is nitpicky, but I do wish there’d been a second of silence between the end of “Cute Thing” and the beginning of this song to bridge it.
Famous Prophets (Stars) – Spoilers, this is the best song on the record by not just miles but entire galaxies. It opens with the bassline sounding a little squished, like you’re in a box. The vocals join you in your box, and then the drums, simplistic as always, and you’re enjoying your little box of “Famous Prophets,” when BAM. Here come the electric guitars, and, yeah, okay. That’s fucking awesome. Ethan delivered a 11/10 performance throughout this entire beast bar none. The layered vocals drip in soon after like a callback to “High To Death” and then morph into a totally new verse, and THEN become a chorus that’s bursting at the seams, which it finally does. Every instrumental snippet in this song is absolutely incredible. The chorus leads into that little quiet part, made all the more intriguing with muffled vocals and quick bursts of static throughout. This is no longer “Famous Prophets.” This is its own entity. It feels odd to even call it “Famous Prophets” anymore. The “ocean washed over your grave” part melts into something of a jam session, and then the completely rewritten “Painstar” (!) verses introduce themselves, along with guitar instrumentation that is purely, simply, beautiful and drum crashes to accentuate. This beauty becomes the piano section, which is such that you have to close your eyes and just experience it. Forgive me but this song is fucking ridiculous. The bass behind the piano. The VOCALS. Come on. Elements of the next part (are they numbered?) begin to seep in, first slowly but then faster and faster, drums and noise and synths and a voice you don’t recognize all layered on top of each other, and then. HOLY. FUCK. There are no words. None at all. “Painstar” plus Ethan in his element plus Andrew in his element plus the trumpet plus literally everything else about all of this. I apologize if you expect me to be articulate. The song fades out with the apparent Bible verse that inspired the ‘Mirror to Mirror’/’Face to Face’ names, and then you have to sit there for awhile and think about who you were before you heard this song.
Twin Fantasy (Those Boys) – The funeral march organs accompany Will’s distorted voice from the first second. The pained high notes at the beginning of the verses are performed relatively goddamned spectacularly, as is that sticky-hot bassline in the not-so-distant background. Everything further crumbles into bedroom-made synthesizers and Will’s voice stumbling over itself (metaphorically and literally, I suppose) to create a sound akin to My Back is Killing Me Baby. The monologue of this song is far and away one of my favorite parts of this record, and this is the only one that hit me emotionally near as hard as the original, so I’ve absolutely got some respect for it. The screamed backup vocals are done just right. I hadn’t known that the outro of the thrown headphones and fridge opening was on the original album, but it was, just quieter, so this fits better with that knowledge. It’s hard to follow up something like “Stars,” but this song functions as a palate-cleanser like it wasn’t before. Nearly seven minutes pass like two, and then it’s over.
TL;DR I wrote a wall of text about this album and now I’m gonna have to sum it up, aren’t I. The first half gets off to an extremely shaky start, but it works itself out, and some parts are more listenable than others. However, the second half is fucking incredible. I eat my words a lot on stuff like this but I’ve heard this album about five times now and I can honestly say that “Stars” is in the top 5 songs Will has ever written. If I don’t see every major music publication devoting space to this song I am going to do it my damn self. In my opinion (gross!) “Stars” was by far the best track and “Beach Life…” by far the worst. There is a very large spectrum in between the two, and I’ve come to appreciate it from an artistic standpoint. All in all, I’m glad this happened. It was a good experiment musically. We all got to freak out for a while. We’re all gonna lose our shit on April 21st when Mirror to Mirror comes out on vinyl. The new lyrics are something to behold entirely. I’m very, very glad Will and friends did this.
Enjoy your night. Whoever listens to it the most in a 24-hour period wins.