Twin Foxes – Broken Bell
Broken Bell is the new full-length from Providence rock band Twin Foxes. The album features Andrew Fortin on bass and Mann solidly performing almost every other instrument. It has a more minimalist feel than their 2018 full length, Sleeping on the Attic Floor, which featured straight-to-the-point aggression. Here, the band shoots for a musical journey and focuses on the quiet anguish of the everyday in both musical tone and lyrical content.
The ardent, anxious vibe is summed up in the title track: ”There are no words to fix a broken bell,” as well as some great lines in “You Are:” “Here I am six years late/Still trudging through the snow, still trudging through my brain.”
The shuffle feel in “Wake Up” is not in your average garage band’s repertoire, and the keyboard waltz in “It’s Always Raining In My Minds” keeps things interesting.
“6 Years Old,” about leaving the past behind, employs a super-long buildup to epic effect. Two minutes in, after some more muted chords and picking, you get slammed with the full electric treatment. Mann’s Conor Oberst-esque muffled, stylized vocals sometimes come off a bit repetitive and hollow in songs like “The Burden” and “White Rabbit.”
My favorite, “The Wall,” has the sprawling, melancholy vibe perfected by Modest Mouse and uses the title as an effective metaphor about overcoming real or perceived hurdles, which hits home the COVID era. The song builds off of a creeping groove and summons a ton of emotion with just a few simple strums.
Mann’s background as a producer comes through as well, as he recorded the album himself at his own Distorted Forest studio. I think the album’s biggest accomplishment are the sonic structures he is able to achieve, like the great, growling guitar alchemy in “Move Out West” and the wailing synths in “You Are.”
Buy Broken Bell at Bandcamp (all donations of $25 or over will receive a vinyl LP).
Gnarnia – cheap thrills
Gnarnia is a Providence band that plays a refreshing blast of fast, brash punk rock in the grand tradition of bands like Bad Brains and the Circle Jerks. The three-song cheap thrills EP can take you right back to the sweaty, germy circle pit that you’ve been missing all year.
Unlike some hardcore, these tunes don’t revel in mediocrity, but are expertly played and super tight. “Procrastinate” is a breakneck speed ode to everyone’s favorite stalling tactic. “Fade Away” is even faster and rawer, and barely cracks the one minute mark.
Buy cheap thrills at Bandcamp.
Here is Motif’s comprehensive collection of the best-ever songs vaguely related to vaccines.
“A Shot in the Arm” — Wilco
“A Shot in the Arm” was the second single off of Summerteeth, an album in which songwriter Jeff Tweedy began exploring more ambitious pop structures. The chaotic wall of noise and synths at the end is downright epic.
“Anodyne” — Uncle Tupelo
From Tweedy’s first band, this title track of their 1993 final album was written by Jay Ferrar. The band split just as they were beginning to find some commercial success, but the album remains a high-water mark in the alt-country genre.
“Rubella” — Smoking Popes
Smoking Popes, an underrated ’90s band that combined expert punk pop melodies and crooning vocals, released “Rubella” on 1994’s Born to Quit, their only album to chart. “I’m inflamed with desire and it’s spreading like wildfire” is a killer line.
“Injection” — Rise Against
Off of 2006’s The Sufferer & the Witness, “Injection” is a great example of the era’s hook-laiden punk rock that brushed up against hardcore just enough to keep the kids interested.
“Inoculated City” — The Clash
This one is off of the band’s fractured final album, Combat Rock. It’s a bright, pop-heavy Mick Jones tune that sounds like a precursor to his post-Clash Big Audio Dynamite project. “Inoculated City” also contains an audio clip from a cleaning product ad, which I assume means something about the horrors of commercialism.
“Sure Shot” — Beastie Boys
1994’s Ill Communication continued to build the Beastie’s rep as an innovative force in hip-hop. Though the band did play the instruments themselves on most of the album, flautist Jeremy Steig’s “Howlin’ For Judy” served as the foundational sample.