For Toronto’s Slim Twig, persona seems to be an important part of the artistic experience. The alter-ego of Max Turnbull (who doubles as an actor, appearing most notably in The Tracey Fragments with Ellen Page), Twig’s recordings once focused on noisy, looped psychedelia. With the appropriately-titled Sof’ Sike (sound it out, and it likely points to an oddly accented “soft psych”) he’s ventured into new territory, finding a niche in the comfortable pocket of bleary-eyed ’60s-pop recreation.
As a visual artist and actor, Twig’s music has a grand sense of setting, as though planned to match a visual accompaniment. The marching British invasion trundle of “LaBeija Pen’Davis” sounds pitch-perfect to back some sort of Wes Anderson montage (a reference that carries pretty well throughout). “Priscilla” walks unsteadily on Turnbull’s off-kilter vocals, his warbly swagger (“Priscilla ain’t the kind of girl who’s just lyin’ around/ So ever since I met her I’ve been trying to lock her down”) indebted to the likes of Jagger. The punchy organ and lo-fi guitars of “Still the Same” lead to a hook that seem to have been crafted by mashing a handful of AM gems together.
The weird qualities of his 2009 LP Contempt! pushed into formless musicality, his vocals keeping things in a familiar, structured world. Those extremes are at times flipped on Sof’ Sike, in which the limber bass and chopping waves of guitar on “Altered Ego” roll out in garage rock perfection, but Turnbull’s vocals are multiplied and buried in reverb. His wild-man delivery on “I’ll Always Be A Child” rambles all over the range, hitting baritone moans and falsetto croons simultaneously.
With a split LP with Dirty Beaches and another solo full-length on the way, it’ll be a waiting game to see if Turnbull can push this new direction even further. Sof’ Sike pours like a cup of warm black tea: sepia-toned, mellow, and surprisingly caffeinated. If Turnbull were able to merge some of the more aggressive “sike” from his earlier work with the spot-on pop compositions of this Sike, he’d have a really intriguing formula on his hands. As it stands, he’s found a new strength in aping a gloriously timeless era.
Essential Tracks: “LaBeija Pen’Davis”, “Still the Same”