Twin Cities: Brand New World

A supremely funky excursion into the future of pop-soul, the debut album by London-based duo Twin Cities strikes a wonderful middle ground between ambitious, up-front lyricism and bold, sugar-soaked production.

Twin Cities

Brand New World

Label: Constellation Avenue
US Release Date: 2012-04-03
UK Release Date: 2012-04-03

A supremely funky excursion into the future of pop-soul, the debut album by London-based duo Twin Cities strikes a wonderful middle ground between ambitious, up-front lyricism and bold, sugar-soaked production. The team of Guynamite and Analog Jones -- relative unknowns on American shores -- plays big melodies with a light touch, peppering its music with enough contrapuntal flair to keep expectations confounded at nearly every turn.

Whenever it looks like Brand New World is about to sink into generics, somewhere in that bland gray area between electronica and R&B, it doesn’t, and a huge credit for that goes to the production itself, always enjoyable and occasionally brilliant. Call it the lovechild of a Dam-Funk/Jamiroquai/Hudson Mohawke ménage-a-trois, a delectable soufflé of programmed instruments that seem just right in each place they appear. But Twin Cities went a couple critical steps further, fashioning their songs to fit an array of talented singers they seem to have selected with great care. All of them make an impression, but D.Ablo probably takes the prize on the album’s deeply soulful single, “Don’t You Want Me Back”, where he skillfully pants the track’s titular phrase and then slides into a convincingly romantic baritone croon.

The record plays far more like a hand-picked assortment of previously established hits than a shaky, hopeful debut. There’s even a mid-album slump of “B-sides” (“Anticipation”, “Just to Be”) that is still truly great. And a couple of excellent curveballs round out Brand New World beautifully. The last track is unexpectedly enigmatic, with a piano-and-vocal mantra (“Time…time…time…”) that leaves the album in a state of open-endedness. Most surprising and clever of all is the title track, which sounds for all the world like a nightly news program’s opening credits, complete with those “bwam-bwam” timpanis and soaring canned violins. It seems entirely apropos in our current era of network news bombardment and the spooked feeling that hangs above our lives, like partying on the night before the stock market crashes. This may be a Brand New World, but it’s also a brave one, in which we’ve gotta learn to have a bloody good time under a vague sense of threat, and Twin Cities have channeled it spectacularly.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.