Photo: Jessie McCall / Courtesy of Girlie Action

Shook Twins’ ‘Some Good Lives’ Is As Affirming As It Is Magical

Shook Twins illustrate their willingness to take musical gambles. As such, Some Good Lives captures moments when the risks yield endless rewards.

Some Good Lives
Shook Twins
Dutch Records
15 February 2019

The Shook Twins’ fourth full-length release, Some Good Lives, is an incisive album. Identical twins, Katelyn and Laurie Shook, look inward and to their pasts to render an indelible felicity and serenity. Utilizing a full band composed of Barra Brown on drums, Sydney Nash on bass, and Niko Slice on guitar, the grounded instrumentation is the jumpoff for the Shook Twins’ hypnotic vocals. Recorded at Hallowed Halls in Portland, Oregon, the album is a canvas portraying thankfulness while paying tribute to family. Some Good Lives is as affirming as it is magical.

The Shook Twins offer overt social commentary in the stimulating opener. The track “What Have We Done” was inspired by Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In the press release, Katelyn comments the track focuses on Sanders’ penchant for “shining a light on so many truths”. Underscored by distinctive funk energy derived from swanky horns, “What Have We Done” is an optimistic epistle to “do a little bit better”. Without sugarcoating the contemporary malaise, the Shook Twins summon a call for humaneness rather than preaching about “finding someone to blame / For this / For this / For that.” It’s almost as if they’re singing directly to the GOP. The lyrics are also a clear comment on classism and America’s problem with wealth inequality. They specifically address the disparity when individuals are “working hard and broke and broken, working less and rich and ruling”. The Shook Twins throw shade at the 1% while acknowledging the struggles of the working class. Whereas they don’t propose any direct solutions, the track designs a unity under the belief we all can indeed “do a little bit better”.

In addition to their ability to strike an equal partnership as musicians and sisters, the influence of family is also an evident theme throughout Some Good Lives. “Grandpa Piano” and “Grandpa’s Moonlight Sonata” are sweet little interludes using audiotapes of the Shook Twins’ grandfather playing piano weeks before his passing. Likewise, “Dog Beach”, is their godfather’s original composition written in 1989 while their father painted the album art. The inclusion of familial ephemera engenders Some Good Lives as a reminder to the musicians themselves to appreciate their lives while cherishing their families. Slice lends his vocals and tribute to family on “Talkie Walkie”. In honor of his widowed father, the track wonders about the distance forged by death and the inability to “talk with me / Until all my hair turns gray / Walk with me / Let a thousand miles slip away.” Slice’s sorrowful guitar restates an undeniable sense of disconsolate love.

Some Good Lives deftly evokes a sense of inwardness and rumination. “Figure It Out” balances the instrumentation and vocals begetting a contemplative impression. Simultaneously, “thinking about the choices / I made that brought me here” affirms complete mental absorption. Enlisting the production expertise of Gregory Alan Isakov, “Figure It Out”‘ bears the marker of his exhibitive multi-layered instrumentals that also exalt the Shook Twins’ vocals. As pointed out by Jedd Beaudoin in his single review for PopMatters, “The Shook Twins’ close harmonies are the true stars.” “Figure It Out” is a stirring yet harrowing call for reflection leading to self-compassion. Moreover, the joy of daydreaming and meditation emerges in “What Is Blue”. Slipping into a fantasy world is decidedly worthwhile when one can “build a world, inside a world, inside the world… oh the view”.

The Shook Twins’ vocal harmony is Some Good Lives‘ showstopper. On “Safe” and “Vessels” the artists let the music wind around their vocals to construct a versatile sonic tapestry. The latter track ends with a union between a crashing cymbal and The Shook Twins holding an elongated note. Synergizing instrumentation and voice, it is eventually impossible to untangle the two musical entities. “Stay Wild” is unequivocally intriguing. Jeb Bows’ distant violin serves to highlight the Shook Twins’ easy skill in a high vocal register while Nash struts on a clavinet, an electrically amplified clavichord.

The impressing Shook Twins revel in musical playfulness while staying anchored by reverence. In doing so, they cut a penetrating album. The Shook Twins’ illustrate their willingness to take musical gambles. As such, Some Good Lives captures moments when the risks yield endless rewards.

RATING 8 / 10