The small details in every track beg for multiple listens, as well create dynamic throughout the record.
For fans, a second Two Tongues album has always seemed a bit improbable, but seven years later, Max Bemis (Say Anything) and Chris Conley (Saves the Day) deliver on their promise with Two Tongues Two. First off, the elephant in the room: Bemis and Conley both have unique, abrasive voices, and putting them together can be off-putting for some.
However, this can also be seen as a means for dynamic and personality on their records. The listener never has to wonder who is who, and the combination of their voices can come off as call-and-response or an internal struggle. However, when their voices blend, they’ve got it figured out in a way were it feels natural. One of the most notable differences between this album and the first is that production feels lo-fi, especially in the vocals. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, but will come down to the personal preference of listeners and fans.
Opening track “Truly” starts with an ’80s-sounding synth line backing Conley’s urgent vocals. Once the song really gets going, it’s driving and catchy as hell. The thing that really makes this opening track so cool is the harmonies and counter vocal lines that both Conley and Bemis showcase. “Truly” starts distorted and hazy, but continues the driving energy started on “Azalea.” A beautiful lead guitar is also present during a brief instrumental section of the track. It’s at this point we start realizing Two Tongues Two might be less pop-punk, and more emo revival inspired.
On “Azalea” a shoegaze/dream pop influence is also present, with the dream pop coming out in the hazy, Silversun Pickups–esque guitars paired along the almost distant lo-fi vocals. “Barcelona” is a complete rock ’n’ roll moment. Conley’s megaphone-effected vocals paired with Bemis’s intense vocal performance during the verses is a highlight. With the way the guitars and vocals are produced, the two musicians seems to be tapping into Jack White on this track, albeit more angsty and emo, and less bluesy.
We get a moment to breathe on the following track, “U.S.” While the song starts off acoustic and tame, drums and distorted guitars find their way in, and we have a unique emo power ballad jam by the end of the song. “Scorpio” picks stuff up again with a Dead Weather–esque sounding riff. Thankfully, unlike the Dead Weather, the song moves between abrasive and melodic, creating an interesting juxtaposition throughout this five-minute track. However, the highlight of “Scorpio” is the bridge, where we get an experimental punk rock jam, but then go back into the melodic. Short track “S.O.S.S.O.L.” continues the abrasive to melodic formula, but then ends in modulation.
“We Can Work” is at once both an in-your-face head banger and a slower track. The song starts melodic, but with the abrasive guitars and bombastic drums already established throughout the album. Parts of “We Can Work” are just distorted guitars and vocals, and this, along with the spoken word during the instrumental bridge, and the Flamingos sample at the end of the track keep things interesting. This is important, as at this point in the album, things could potentially start to lose dynamic and become grating. Thankfully, Bemis and Conley are too creative for that to happen.
“Veuve Clicquot,” which is probably the most standard song here, picks the energy right back up, but only for a brief two minutes. The following track, “Bateman,” starts on a laidback acoustic guitar, but what keeps things from becoming anticlimactic here is when Bemis enters the song with intense, distorted vocals. A little more than a minute into the song, there’s a short little noise jam, but it quickly goes back into acoustic guitar, simple drums, and intense vocals. Not to worry: The song ends on the noise jam. We get a true breather right before the end of the album on the short, but lovely “Interlude Two.” Bemis’s wife, Sherri, from the band Eisley, lends her gorgeous vocals here for this dreamy atmospheric track.
Nine-minute-long album ender “Black Hole” starts with a high lead guitar, going into a slow, sad, dark jam made up of distorted demented vocals and sounds beneath Conley crooning. The song flows like this for a stellar five minutes before going into a more bittersweet-sounding section. The drums leave midway through, but an ambient piano takes over, along with Conley’s intense vocals, noisy guitar effects, and noise in general. Slowly but surely, everything fades away except for the simple ambient piano, and that’s how this beautifully intense album ends.
Overall, this 11-song collection shows an unexpected musical growth of this project. Two Tongues Two is more than just a part two or volume two, as is it far more unique than the self-titled debut. This record pushes musical boundaries that are unexpected of this band. Not many current names in emo/indie-punk come to mind when thinking about the musical sounds, textures, and dynamics employed on this record. Bemis and Conley are excitedly diving head first into sonic styles that most other musicians in their scene are just now starting to slowly not be afraid of messing around with. The small details in every track beg for multiple listens, as well create dynamic throughout the record. Rather than just play faster and heavier on the second half of the album, as bands in the pop-punk and post-hardcore genre seem to do too often, new ideas keep being presented, and ideas are fully developed and recognized.
The result is a record that feels experimental for this genre of music, but still beautiful and emotionally honest in all its chaos. Note: It’s especially effective when played on nice headphones or speakers. A+ | Michael Cheng