My first happy music discovery of 2017 is a compact little gem — or maybe a chunk of moon rock. Twin Rains, a Toronto duo consisting of producer/guitarist Jay Merrow and vocalist/keyboardist Christine Stoesser, came out to Vancouver to record their debut album in this current musical incarnation (after writing music for film and TV, including one Degrassi: The Next Generation). The result, Automatic Hand, is just a really nice, chill dream pop album.
Merrow plays with intriguing rhythms and instrumentation — the compositions are spare but unexpected. Stoesser's low, breathy vocals bring out the album's cold, solitary vibe. She shines on "Evergreen," where her dark, cool half-whispers mix with a rawer and clearer chorus. On "Break the Crown," I hear a little bit of Julia Holter in Stoesser's slow, melancholy reflections.
I think the word that best describes the tone of this album is "celestial." Starry. Icy. Spacey. Examples: the twinkly chimes that open "Flash Burn," and the homing-signal pings that reverberate through "Flood," where, along with Stoesser's echoing layered vocals, they lend it a bit of a 2000s dance feel — in a really good way.
"a Swim," the album's second track, is the highlight of the album for me. The opener, the 40-second "Before," is a great lead-in to "a Swim," which has an infectious, chilling forward motion that leads into a big, thrumming breakdown.
Lyrically, I didn't find the album too compelling at first, perhaps because I found the words a bit hard to hear. However, after repeated listening I've gained a greater appreciation for Stoesser's soft lines under the whispery crackling of her Ss and Ps and Ks. They have an atmospheric and tactile element, serving in large part as rhythmic elements on many of the songs.
The songs are slow and very soothingly chill, but they're rhythmic and have a ton of motion to them at the same time. Definitely give Automatic Hand a listen for something unique and calming. Twin Rains has brought us a small dance party for super chill space introverts.