Twin Atlantic‘s sixth album, like much music emerging this year, was created in something of a flux. Their first album without drummer Craig Kneale, it was recorded in isolation conditions, with lead singer Sam McTrusty writing and recording while also looking after his small child as his wife worked on covid wards.
Fellow band member Ross McNae and long-term collaborator Jacknife Lee worked remotely with McTrusty on knocking his new songs into shape – and the results are wildly varied. Transparency is the sound of Twin Atlantic batting all kinds of ideas around, and often coming up with gold. This is a world away from the pop-rock with arena-friendly choruses that they made their name with, but remains accessible and often, surprisingly funny.
Opener Keep Your Head Up, on the face of it, is a downbeat and stately introduction to the record – all doomy piano chords, and McTrusty promising that “I’ll be there for you”. It’s only towards the end when he drifts off into a reverie about adult responsibilities – “money, worries, bills, money, money” and then just casually dismisses them with “fuck it”, you realise that Twin Atlantic are here to have fun.
That sense of fun is encapsulated in tracks like One Man Party and Dance Like Your Mother. The former is, as the title suggests, a bit of a party anthem: you could even describe it as Uptown Funk for the lockdown generation. Dance Like Your Mother is also has the same infectious sense of fun, with a hook that can bury its way into your brain in a matter of seconds.
Those who miss Twin Atlantic’s more sincere side will be sated by piano ballad It’s Getting Dark, although its placing towards the end of the album means that the momentum drops a bit. More successful is Haunts, a synth-pop ballad with McTrusty singing “hold me like you do”, a plea for connection in an age of isolation.
Mostly though, it’s just a delight to hear the band kicking loose. The sample heavy sound of Bang On The Gong is a highlight, while Get Famous benefits from Lee’s production techniques and brings to mind The Killers‘ early material. The fact that McTrusty can, sometimes, sound like Aidan Moffat gives his songs an added edge when delivering these ostensibly bedroom disco anthems.
Not everything works – Dirty veers a bit too close to formulaic indie-guitar rocker, although even that works in a lyric of “Michael Jackson – milkshake, slip in the pool after the hind shake” which simultaneously makes no sense and yet is also quite brilliant. However, Instigator pulls things back after the droop of It’s Getting Dark, with a haunting synth riff and lyrics about trying to live up to fan expectations.
After over 15 years together, you could forgive Twin Atlantic for settling into that album-tour-album cycle, but Transparency is the sound of a band restlessly searching for a new direction and pulling it off very well.