Big Ups Lay Out Cacophony and Bliss on 'Two Parts Together'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Big Ups' Two Parts Together is a headstrong record that finds optimal comfort in post-punk and unpredictability.

Two Parts Together
Big Ups

Exploding in Sound

18 May 2018

Two Parts Together is an appropriate name for a record that demonstrates its strengths through contrast. Clean strings would mask a dark bass presence; distortion would block out the genuine hope in the lyrics, and chaotic instrumentation would coordinate with sedated vocals. Big Ups act as pioneers in post-punk, attempting more nuance in their volume. This New York-based band want audiences to listen deeply, going past the noise and reaching the more hopeful lifeblood of each song. The instrumentation is a tumultuous storm: the vocalist is on a path toward what made him happy.

Like on Before a Million Universes, the band channel the essence of Slint very liberally. That is more present in the vocalization; however, each member puts more than an excellent effort in making an ominous atmosphere. This success is doubled on Two Parts Together; if you removed one instrument from the equation, the effect would be lost. Each track hinges on every part coordinating to create a gloom that would define the Big Ups sound. The only substantial con is how short the album is, leaving you wanting more.

Big Ups are not the sort of band to let sleeping dogs lie. When you believe their song is over, another section takes over, leading listeners to question whether this new part is necessary. These cogs are unnecessary, although they do provide an impact in their unpredictability. "In the Shade" introduces this trend, with a first half having a fighting post-punk vocal presence, then abruptly having a more pugilist presence in the percussion and strings. The more Deftones-like "Trying to Love" also has this switch in tone, favoring a grey, sombre mood as opposed to a more rebellious one.

Two Parts Together also finds its strengths in its varying genre shifts, with some being subtle and some overt. "Tenmile" is not a filler as much as it is a post-rock respite from the cacophony already laid in the album. "Fear" has a more alternative rock sensation in its strings: they start out less distorted until the bass drops implosion after implosion of sound in the second verse. "Tell Them" straddles away from post-punk to initially go for a plainer punk in the mucky vocals. The song slowly builds up until it fully turns back into the post-punk that the group has mastered.

When not waxing poetic, the simplicity of the lyrics is what makes the album better than the sum of its parts. When you can get past the blockade of sound, "Trying to Love" uses the grotesque imagery of dirty fingernails and chipped teeth to go along the dark path the bass creates. The maelstrom of noise is advantageous, too, as shown on the teeth-gritting "Imaginary Dog Walker". There is an element of rallying rather than separation when Joe Galarraga sings: "There are those who walk / And those who run." All of this amounts to a riotous tremor of a fight in the last section. "We will walk the dogs!" Galarraga shouts, a heavy instrumentation following him like a torrent of rain.

"Fear" is where this simplicity and beauty truly rears its head: "I don't wanna recall the moments before sleeping," Galarraga states, feeling bombarded by a claustrophobic sense of dread. Throughout the song, less distorted guitars coordinate with troubled words, masking the hope that the vocalist still has. There are passages of brightness that finally reach its zenith with the words: "There is much to fear in the morning / Much to fear at night." This realization is more of a readying for the daily battles that come with living. The band realize that these unending trials are worth fighting for.

Big Ups have created another substantial record in their discography. The two parts the album's title are referring to could be lightness and darkness; hope and fear; loudness and quiet. Nevertheless, there are more than two parts that make Two Parts Together impactful.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.