Toledo always knew he would return to Twin Fantasy. He never did complete the work. Not really. Never could square his grand ambitions against his mechanical limitations. Listen to his first attempt, recorded at nineteen on a cheap laptop, and you’ll hear what Brian Eno fondly calls “the sound of failure” – thrilling, extraordinary, and singularly compelling failure. Will’s first love, rendered in the vivid teenage viscera of stolen gin, bruised shins, and weird sex, was an event too momentous for the medium assigned to record it.
Even so, even awkward and amateurish, Twin Fantasy is deeply, truly adored. Legions of reverent listeners carve rituals out of it: sobbing over “Famous Prophets,” making out to ‘Cute Thing’, dancing their asses off as ‘Bodys’ climbs higher, higher. The distortion hardly matters. You can hear him just fine. You can hear everything. And you can feel everything: his hope, his despair, his wild overjoy. He’s trusting you – plural you, thousands of you – with the things he can’t say out loud. “I pretended I was drunk when I came out to my friends,” he sings – and then, caught between truths, backtracks: “I never came out to my friends. We were all on Skype, and I laughed and changed the subject.”
You might be imagining an extended diary entry, an angsty transmission from a bygone LiveJournal set to power chords and cranked to eleven. You would be wrong. Twin Fantasy is not a monologue. Twin Fantasy is a conversation. You know, he sings, that I’m mostly singing about you. This is Will’s greatest strength as a songwriter: he spins his own story, but he’s always telling yours, too. Between nods to local details – Harper’s Ferry, The Yellow Wallpaper, the Monopoly board collecting dust in his back seat – he leaves room for the fragile stuff of your own life, your own loves. From the very beginning, alone in his bedroom, in his last weeks of high school, he knew he was writing anthems. Someday, he hoped, you and I might sing these words back to him.
“It was never a finished work,” Toledo says, “and it wasn’t until last year that I figured out how to finish it.” He has, now, the benefit of a bigger budget, a full band in fine form, and endless time to tinker. According to him, it took eight months of mixing just to get the drums right. But this is no shallow second take, sanitized in studio and scrubbed of feeling. This is the album he always wanted to make. It sounds the way he always wanted it to sound.
It’s been hard, stepping into the shoes of his teenage self, walking back to painful places. There are lyrics he wouldn’t write again, an especially sad song he regards as an albatross. But even as he carries the weight of that younger, wounded Toledo, he moves forward. He grows. He revises, gently, the songs we love so much. In the album’s final moments, in those “apologies to future me’s and you’s,” there is more forgiveness than fury.
This, Toledo says, is the most vital difference between the old and the new: he no longer sees his own story as a tragedy.
He’s not alone no more.
Chicago’s Twin Peaks have gleefully embraced change ever since their 2010 formation to become one of the city’s most essential rock bands. With their fourth album Lookout Low, the sonic and creative leap the five-piece takes feels like a total revolution in their youthful sound. The 10-track effort was recorded and cut live over three weeks in Wales with legendary producer Ethan Johns. Thanks to the band’s dedicated approach to rehearsing and demoing out their material before hitting the studio, the songs burst with life and the undeniable magic of their live show.
2016’s Down In Heaven connected with audiences in a big way, seeing the band taking over late night on CONAN, while landing festival slots at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo & Coachella, and tours supporting luminaries like Spoon, Cage The Elephant, and Wilco.
Armed with four excellent and collaborative songwriters, each member upped their game on Lookout Low. Guitarist Cadien Lake James’ mind-bending opener “Casey’s Groove” is expansive and reassuring, bassist Jack Dolan’s “Unfamiliar Sun” is patient and affecting, guitarist Clay Frankel translates heartache into catharsis on the title track, while multi-instrumentalist Colin Croom reaches new performing heights on “Ferry Song.” Lookout Low shows that Twin Peaks is less a band and more a brotherhood, one that’s endured for almost a decade.
Beginning as Dana Margolin’s sadcore bedroom project, Porridge Radio developed into an idiosyncratic post-punk 4-piece after she moved to Brighton and met her future bandmates. They inelegantly knot together Margolin’s vicious, furious emotional outpourings with beautiful pop melodies, and have shared stages with the likes of Soccer Mommy, Alex G, Cherry Glazerr, Goat Girl, Dream Wife and Lydia Lunch.
After a series of demos, and the growing legend of their intense live shows, full-band LP Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers came out via Memorials of Distinction in 2016. Recorded in a garden shed, their lofi debut documents struggles with life, love and boredom, and showcases the scrapbook absurdism at Porridge Radio’s core.
In early 2019 Porridge Radio made an eagerly anticipated return with their first studio-recordings, the singles ‘Give / Take’ and ‘Don’t Ask Me Twice’. The two tracks offer the first glimpse of an increasingly refined sound, whilst maintaining the earnest vitality of their earlier work. The band’s Secretly Canadian debut, Every Bad, is a culmination of what has been in their head for some time; the record they have been waiting for the means to record. It arrives full of grand, sweeping ambition – with vocals so urgent that it often feels like it is moved by compulsion rather than choice, with all the rawness of early Karen O, and influences as disparate as Charli XCX and The Cranberries.