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Album Review: Slim Twig – Thank You for Stickin’ With Twig

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It’s nearly impossible for an artist to create a work that doesn’t draw on distinct influences from the past. For Toronto’s Slim Twig, born Max Turnbull, this rings especially true, as his version of ’70s art rock and psych instantly brings to mind figures like Bowie, Lynch, and Eno. Rather than coming off as an imitation act or someone merely paying tribute, Turnbull’s outsized personality and striking, twisted take on his music shows him following in the footsteps of visionaries by subverting expectations and bringing the spirit of arthouse innovators into current times.

Thank You for Stickin’ With Twig is technically the artist’s second album on DFA, but his first one, the excellent A Hound at the Hem, was originally self-released in 2012 before being reissued on the label last fall. With this album serving as the first he recorded for a bigger label, knowing it would reach a larger audience, Turnbull doesn’t alter or concede any part of his sound or persona. Instead, he pushes everything out to include more instrumentation and distortion, more demented psychedelic arrangements, and more engrossing songwriting.

Part of this fuller approach involves additional levels of experimentation with song structure. No two songs sound alike, but not in terms of Turnbull being an artist with no identity throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. Turnbull appears to be in complete control of his aesthetic here, imbuing the record with variety to the point where each aspect contains his touch and flair but never blends together as something interchangeable or inconsequential. Turnbull goes from winding, half-mumbled ramblings over heavy, blown-out noise that would satisfy Lightning Bolt fans on “Roll Red Roll (Song for Steubenville)” to a hazy, almost chopped-and-screwed forlorn interlude on “You Got Me Goin’”, all without ever losing the audience in translation.

The album flows well throughout, especially when, say, “Fadeout Killer”, a woozy psych dirge that sounds like it was melted in the sun, transitions into the slower, Eastern influences at play in “Trip Thru Bells”. Other highlights challenge notions of masculinity in music history. “A Woman’s Touch (It’s No Coincidence)” takes aim at rock narratives such as The Beatles and the idea that classic rock is “a man’s world” before pointing out the ridiculousness beyond that, concluding with “history’s more than a man’s story.” Over a whirlwind of cacophonous trumpets, Turnbull challenges popular opinion without coming off as preachy or stuffy.

Beyond all these notions of subverting and challenging psych rock conventions, Turnbull crafts memorable melodies. Songs like “Textiles on Mainstreet” or “Live In, Live on Your Era” are instantly catchy earworms that contain elements of ’70s AM rock and sound like they could have been big hits in another decade. His knack for this is especially resonant on the five-and-a-half-minute instrumental closer, “Cannabis”, a sprawling, triumphant celebration that delivers the album’s knockout punch.

Thank You for Stickin’ With Twig is a statement album. Turnbull has expanded his sound to offer an interpretation of classic psych rock on a more widescreen level than his previous work. Psych rock should be about pushing boundaries and experimentation, and Turnbull’s invitation down the rabbit hole stands out from waves of garage/psych artists who are content with settling into a groove. By widening his scope and taking advantage of the tools at his disposal, Turnbull is able to fully realize the vision and promise hinted at by his earlier work.

Essential Tracks: “Slippin’ Slidin'”, “A Woman’s Touch (It’s No Coincidence)”, and “Live In, Live on Your Era”

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