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Talk Normal - Sunshine

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Artist: Talk Normal

Album: Sunshine

Label: Joyful Noise

Review date: Oct. 23, 2012

On their second album, Brooklyn’s Talk Normal don’t change things up much from their 2009 debut, but that’s just fine — it’s an approach that still has a lot to offer. Sarah Register and Andrya Ambro ply their guitar and drums in a strongly No Wave-inspired way, but with a less visceral, more head-driven feel. Driven by staccato drumming and jagged, humming guitar that borrows from the same Glenn Branca rulebook that Sonic Youth adapted, the deconstructed elements hang together in a charmingly ramshackle way.

The muscle of drums and guitar is strung together with the duo’s idiosyncratic vocals, alternately chanting, call-and-responding, and yelping in rhythm. There’s nobody else who sounds like Talk Normal; perhaps early-model Magik Markers is the closest. Some might point to Blonde Redhead for comparison, but Talk Normal have never been that rock-bandish: These songs have structure, certainly, but it’s almost off-handed. Even Live Skull were more traditionally rock ‘n’ roll than Talk Normal.

Which is all to say that these 43 minutes are quite welcome right about now, and refreshingly original in a year that’s had some good albums but needed this sort of shot in the arm. The balance of melody to unease is rarely this well maneuvered. The spiky, distorted vocals amidst the claustrophobic heaviness of “Shot This Time,” the near-children’s song of “Hot Water Burns” with its particularly intriguing criss-crossing vocal lines, the “classic” Talk Normal layers of intricate drums, singsong vocals and Branca-esque shots of guitar that mark the title track — it’s all strong stuff leavened with surprising moments of calm and secret bits of melody.

Oddly, the one disappointment is the last song, “Hurricane,” which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Where even the slower songs on the album are bristling with energy and a sort of melodic don’t-fuck-with-me atmosphere, “Hurricane” just sits there. Echo’d, chanted vocals and a distantly pounding bass drum sit in a large warehouse of humming sounds, and while the feel gets slightly crowded by the end, the lackluster piece concludes the album on a strangely flat note. Just pretend the album’s last song is the grinding, enigmatic “Baby, Your Heart’s Too Big” and call it a day. A very good day.

By Mason Jones

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