Twin Chameleon’s self-titled debut EP blends a whole host of indie-pop influences. You’ll hear Grizzly Bear, Bombay Bicycle Club, and even Talking Heads. (Van Bree channels David Byrne at times.) Twin Chameleon has so many musical references that it feels derivative at first pass. But closer inspection reveals a clever dichotomy between lyrics and composition. It’s the source of the EP’s uniqueness.
Comparisons to early-era Vampire Weekend are especially difficult to avoid. Twin Chameleon frontman Mitch Van Bree affects the same half-sung tone employed by Ezra Koenig. Their guitars are similarly clean and light. Twin Chameleon’s drums sound one steelpan short of calypso—a hallmark of Vampire Weekend’s debut. And early backlash for Vampire Weekend focused on their perceived privileged air. While that charge is unfair in a few ways, it’s hard to argue with titles like “Oxford Comma” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.”
Twin Chameleon’s opening track, “Augusta National,” could have fallen into the same privilege trap. It’s named for the world’s most prestigious and exclusive golf club. (Try to find a better symbol of privilege.) But the track’s airy melody instead soundtracks a reproach of the digital world. “Have you ever sat in a bed at night / Face aglow with the pale blue light / And slowly but surely realized / That your friends are all a lie?” These opening lines divorce the listener from the notion that Twin Chameleon will celebrate the concerns of the upper class.
Incongruous lyrics and sound span the whole EP. “Same Old Stories” contrasts Rupert Smith’s twinkling guitar and Sam Smalley’s light-touch drumming with a warning from Van Bree. “Nothing that you say is gonna make any change / I’m up to no good / I’ve heard it all before I promise you can be sure.”
“Counting Sheep” finds the band slowed down for the first time. Smith’s guitar is relaxed. Smalley’s drums are tight and full of light cymbal hits. Van Bree’s vocals are languid and layered with echoes. Against these dreamy sounds are lyrics revolving around a lover’s spat. The song conveys an uncomfortable attempt to sleep in the same bed after saying things maybe best left unsaid.
The final track, “Spring Break,” returns to Twin Chameleon’s indie-pop roots with a sound perfect for a luau. But the lyrics belie the light-hearted instrumentation. Van Bree takes some pointed shots at spring break stereotypes. Consider: “You’re so independent as you spend your parents’ money,” and “You’re not fooling anyone / You’re too young to drink it for the taste.”
Twin Chameleon is chock-full of influences the band is proud to wear on their sleeves. What saves the album from feeling like a rehash is Twin Chameleon’s ability to take their multicolored musical background and reflect it back in a unique way.
- Mix and match influences to nice effect
- Avoid the privilege trap (See: Vampire Weekend)
- Tight drumming
- Could use a little more variety in their sound
- Incongruous lyrics