The past is golden for The Lemon Twigs.
There’s always something a little strange about choosing to follow old trends to the letter, like when the kids of today put-put to Scarborough on a Vespa for the bank holiday weekend, or a twenty-something spikes up their hair before throwing on some leather and studs.
It’s not really anyone’s business of course, but falling down the rabbit holes of twentieth century subculture often leads to a dead end, despite the obvious attraction of forgetting most parts of the current one ever happened.
For siblings Brian and Michael D’Addario the answer to modernity has been to ignore its toxic sensory overload, and as The Lemon Twigs write songs with values first embraced five or six decades ago.
Over The Lemon Twigs’ three previous albums – Do Hollywood (2016), Go to School (2018) and Songs For The General Public (2020) – this journey has taken on board iterative refinements but the latest chapter is – according to the accompanying press – a, ‘unified song cycle born of shared blood and common purpose’.
Their desired sound – an amalgam raised on influences such as The Byrds, Arthur Russell and even Syd Barrett – didn’t initially come without its challenges in terms of laying down, as early acoustic sessions in a Manhattan rehearsal studio were blighted by New York’s cacophonous street noise and bleed from heavy metal outfits practicing next door.
When fully realised however, the results gave The Lemon Twigs’ work a timelessness they’re clearly searching for. Opener When Winter Comes Around recalls the breathy folk of Bridge Over Troubled Water, or a slightly more elfin Fleet Foxes; all snow, falling leaves and the chill of another cycle coming to an inevitable end.
The mood is often downbeat, but rarely mournful. Born To Be Lonely – written after a screening of John Cassavetes’ film Opening Night – is a rumination on the unstoppable effects of age which nestles in the heady footlights of a Broadway show, a sad song that’s as gorgeous as it is irresistible.
Occasionally the approach is more direct, both Ghost Run Free and What Were You Doing’s west coast jangle a sugar rush offering straightforward rockets to happiness, lying admittedly at the opposite end of the spectrum to Every Day Is The Worst Day Of My Life, although the latter’s harmonic perfection is bittersweetly lifting.
Shuttling between these lyrical peaks and troughs could have been wearisome, but the bigger risks for Everything Harmony – derivation, inauthenticity – are deftly avoided.
The only real borderline moment comes via Corner Of My Eye, a falsetto-led ballad that flirts with cheesy cocktail lounge aesthetics but ultimately survives with dignity intact.
It’s followed (as is almost a pattern) by a twinkling highlight, in this case the exquisite Any Time Of Day, a track smothered in so much Laurel Canyon dexterity that if your eyes are tightly shut it could easily be lifted from some just-found tapes by The Carpenters.
If any record in 2023 deserved a genuine house bringing down centrepiece however it was this one, and What Happens To A Heart is that number.
Starting with a deliberately Spector-esque template, the bare bones of this cinematic weepie were then upbraided with a fretless bass, two pianos, two organs, harpsichord, celeste, strings and a French horn, before relentless overdubbing gave it the panoramic effect of an orchestra in full flow. All that’s missing from the final production is the swish of a curtain coming down.
It may have its roots in the simpler times preferred by many, but Everything Harmony presents The Lemon Twigs as more than just keen
Pristine and hugely listenable, the now is calling because it wants the D’Addarios back.