The Sweetner’s lead singer Chad Reynvaan is back with his newest album Strange Twist, which picks up right where the debut, Think of me Hill left off. It’s happy-go-lucky pop rock in its purest, most organic form. Reynvaan takes the lead on most of the instrumentation, continuing to chase the sound in his head, and like his first album, the DIY results are psychedelic-folk love songs with plenty of pyrotechnics and studio wizardry to keep listeners on their toes.
Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, Chad Reynvaan is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter who takes zero shortcuts. He opts to track and record everything on his own, striving for an organic sound that doesn’t sacrifice creativity. He samples telephone rings, wildlife sounds and other strange cacophonic noises that highlight the album’s charm and sentimentality. His most interesting contribution, though, might be the voice recordings (titled “Whale One” and “Whale Two”) that break the fourth wall by commenting on the songs the listener is hearing.
Though he does bring a barrage of instruments to the recordings (the album includes trombones, cellos and a ukulele), Reynvaan’s piano parts are the most passionate and appealing of the instrumentation. The key solo in “What’s the Hurry”—that’s just plain fun music, and surely the sound Reynvaan is envisioning. The guitar takes a backseat, working collaboratively with the other instruments rather than stealing the limelight. Unfortunately, the ivories are only utilized as a secondary instrument most of the time.
The electric guitar does get lethargic in spots, teetering the scales between fun love songs that stick in your head and less-than-memorable passages that are easily forgotten. But when Strange Twist is at its best, it’s often when Reynvaan sets down the electric guitar. A simplistic acoustic guitar is the driving force of “Golden Boy” and the song works to perfection, especially with the piano in the last chorus which leads into the hardest hitting moment on the album: the wall of sound outro.
Strange Twist is a slow starter, stumbling out of the gate with the first track “You Just Be You” a haphazard mix of a slide guitar and organ, but soon finds its groove with songs like “What’s Your Hurry,” “Golden Boy” and the undeniable standout “American Clouds,” a piano-driven ballad complimented by strings and backing vocals that make it the most melancholy of the album’s 13 tracks.
To be sure, Strange Twist lives up to its title. Every song, aside from the Whale tracks, exhibits large portions of familiar material. Listeners are bound to recognize shades of Of Montreal, The Beach Boys, John Lennon and Portugal The Man among many others. The little additions Reynvaan makes in the studio keep the album interesting, but after his second try, he still seems to be chasing that sound in his head.
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