Back with a vengeance, Two Gallants‘ new album The Bloom and the Blight shows these two lads are far from past their prime with one of their strongest and most aggressive albums yet. With an edgy start that slowly progresses to more of the duo’s slower acoustic/folk sound, it’s hard not to enjoy the ride.
I was pretty much sold on the entire album with just the starter “Halcyon Days”, so much so that I found myself listening to it over and over before moving on to the rest. This track has that perfect sound you come across every now and again that makes you feel like you’re having your own private concert right in your living room (regardless of how poor a sound system you have), and with such a beautifully arranged song, it’s hard to move forward. Now even though I’m tossing around fluff words like “beautiful”, this song is very hard-hitting with a gritty, punk-esque guitar tone and the very raw vocals of Adam Stevens. It draws you in with an eerie dark guitar riff which then punches into an angst-driven verse and chorus. In saying “angst-driven”, I’m referring very much to the lyrics which use clichés in the chorus such as “with your name upon my lips” and “relive your farewell kiss as I drown”, which I found fit so perfectly with the gut-wrenching singing style. With so many singers striving to make their notes and melodies seem smooth and easy, it’s nice (especially when you’re listening to the more “indie” class of music) to hear someone push their vocals to the limit in their recorded albums and not just in live performances. It’s this very strained quality which allows the lyrics to shine and maintain meaning instead of coming off as cheap and clichéd. The arrangement of this track is also stellar, with a nice mix of that eerie sound and some soft vocals in between the edgier parts of the track. There are many more parts of this song I could go on about – which is the problem I ran into when first listening to the album – but moving on…
“Song of Songs” is definitely a cool track, mainly with the nice vocal break around the three-quarter mark of the song, and has a very fun upbeat sound with an almost ironically fun guitar riff. I think the music follows the lyrics well in that they match the folk/punk tone. It sort of reminds me of a song that would be created if the Dropkick Murphys joined up with Joel Plaskett… sort of.
The last of the strong starter set, “My Love Won’t Wait”, has a great vocal harmony start that gets cut into by heavy/dirty guitar chords which drive into the muted verse. It works and we again see some of the same raw vocals and lyrics that make this album great, mixed with some great guitar riffs and full-tilt drumming; easily one of the more all-out songs of the album. My only real complaint is its length; I felt I wanted more. That said, the distant guitar and piano ending is great.
“Broken Eyes” is a very acoustic/folk song which is a nice change of pace and fits well with the album in that it gives it the feeling of a live concert. It’s very much what you’d expect to hear in a montage scene of a romantic comedy or what you’d want to listen to when you’re driving through a scenic route on a sunny day.
“Ride Away” takes us completely away from this sound and back to the rough tone of the album with a nice mix of western style guitar. There are a couple of breaks and riffs to the song that have a very cool punk/western sound that, again, fit well with the lyrics. This is a fun song and it would be great in a movie that mixed the styles of Sergio Leone with Guy Ritchie (unlikely but potentially awesome).
From here, the album moves much more towards a softer, more lyrically and vocally driven direction which is actually quite beautiful in “Decay”. This song is the slowest of the album but it has great depth and perfect melodies and harmonies. It’s almost a song to listen to separately from the album, with its own unique sound and tone, but it’s also effective in establishing a shift in direction as we near the end. The next few are more folksy and relaxed, which is what is usually expected from a duo, and it does not disappoint. In a way, this album is two different bands: one being the punk/gritty rockers, and the other the soft acoustic folk band.
The album finishes with “Sunday Souvenirs” which is a great sign-off for the album, with its many continued harmonies mixed in and flawless guitar and piano. If it was my choice, I would have rather had “Decay” close the deal, even though it might not have given the same tone and rhythm, but that’s me.
I thought this whole album was a great listen if you’re in the mood for a fun indie sound that delivers like a live performance. It definitely made me a fan. Now to listen to Halcyon Days again.