Caroline Groff, Staff Writer
They rock, they roll, and have some newly found soul- and a lot of it. Twin Peaks has come out with a new album to start the change of the season. From a home-grown garage band to an almost constant touring outfit, the band has grown and expanded, especially in their sound. Their newest album, “Lookout Low,” shows the changing and aging of the band’s sound in the best way possible.
The Chicago natives captured the new sound with help from producer Ethan Johns, who has worked with Paul McCartney, The Staves, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, just to name a few. The band brings the feeling of a live show to their records. They’ve stuck to some of their Rolling Stones-esque roots while taking a joyous leap into the jam-band abyss. Tracks like “Oh Mama” bring that classic rock feel the band has always held onto, while others like “Casey’s Groove” blend a new, looser style into their catalog.
The first single from the album, “Dance Through It,” shows the ever-present chemistry of the members: Cadien Lake James, Clay Frankel, Jack Dolan, Connor Brodner, and Colin Croom. The track—which the band jokingly states evokes a Sheryl Crow essence—makes the band sound even larger than it already is. A strong and catchy bass line carries the song though a trance-like state with a joyfully absurd video to match.
For its more expansive endeavors, the album also shares its intimate moments as well. The track “Unfamiliar Sun” gives shiny, light piano riffs, a simple guitar instrumental, and an understated lead vocal from Dolan. Closer to spoken word then song, Dolan offers the lyrics, “Unfamiliar sun/I wanna thank you for your light/In my unforgiving life.” They have always balanced a somber view with the earnest hope of a good time and their use of a simple lyric style writing expresses it perfectly. On the title track “Lookout Low,” Frankel sings, “So it feels a little late to let love in/Well it’s never too late to try.” The lyrics would seem cliché if not for the boisterous vocal styling and guitar riffs.
The album breathes with horn arrangements and backing vocals, most memorably with the help of Ohmme’s Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, more Chicago natives. Their help is most welcomed on the track “Under a Smile.” The duo’s mix with the band give the song a gospel-like choir section on the chorus. The culmination of every instrumental arrangement feels spacious and fresh, but the new sounds were not invigorating for every listener.
Pitchfork and their renowned grading system (can you hear the sarcasm in that phrase enough?) gave the album a 5.9. In the review, writer Abby Jones stated that “here, they mostly sound exhausted—like they’ve run out of ideas or motivation.” Admittedly, the band might have lost some of that “bustling garage rock” Jones reminisces on, but expecting that same youthful rowdiness heard on their older albums like “Wild Onion” or “Sunken” seems futile. The maturity of the band and their sound seems inevitable, but is it a bad thing? Is maturity synonymous with boring? Is it inevitable?
It seems Twin Peaks doesn’t care either way, and instead welcomes the changes with open arms. They happily stretch into the wisdom and explore a way to blend it with a youthful mischief. Tracks like “Dance Through It” and “Oh Mama” make it clear that their dive into maturity still holds onto a bounty of energy and raucous charm. What was described as boring and monotonous, I hear as a more lackadaisical care-free sound that doesn’t care to always be big. Overall, “Lookout Low” is an ambitious jump that sticks the landing.
Fans in St. Louis can listen happily and in-person next month. Twin Peaks’ fall tour schedule will be bringing them to the Ready Room on Oct. 31. Enjoy Halloween night with a few tunes that will undoubtedly give you your Rock n’ Roll fix.