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Twist - Distancing Music Album Reviews

The songwriting from Laura Hermiston on her latest indie-pop album is noisy but lucid, reflective of the sound and vision coming from Toronto’s Buzz Records.

Buzz Records was born in a house off Spadina Avenue in Toronto’s Chinatown as a way to release cassette tapes of concerts held in the garage. Over the last seven years, it’s grown to become one of the most prominent record labels in the city—as indispensable to the burgeoning indie scene today as Arts & Crafts was to the indie rock renaissance that fostered Stars, Feist, and Broken Social Scene in the early 2000s. From Weaves to Dilly Dally to Odonis Odonis—whose bassist Denholm Whale founded the label with friend and roommate Erik Jude—the Buzz roster has a sound and vision, as punk and DIY as you’d expect from its origins. The aesthetic is represented well by Twist, whose second album, Distancing, is entirely typical of the Buzz aesthetic and the philosophy that has brought it forth from the underground.

Twist is singer-songwriter Laura Hermiston, who shares with Dilly Dally’s Katie Monks and Weaves’s Jasmyn Burke a similar attitude of rock abandon and creative invention. She makes an expressive indie-pop that uses a sound-expanding echo to fill out her otherwise straightforward compositions. Distancing is an album full of counterintuitive decisions with an elusive spirit—playful and sometimes slippery—that makes this record a compelling listen.

Her songwriting has something of the pop simplicity of the girl groups of the 1960s: sunny vocal melodies, big pop punch, understated lyrics with familiar sentiments both cheerful and melancholic. On Distancing, she develops a number of simple, lucid themes: cold lovers, long roads, open doors. She might be “waiting for the feeling of love” on “Tides,” or else reflecting that she’s “been in love so many times” she’s lost count on “Waves.” (It’s no coincidence that both titles work the same image.) She finds ways to poke and prod these lines with her voice, like the way it curves up toward the end of each sentence in the middle of “Towers” as she asks simply, “Does it make you feel good?” She gets a lot out of that little “good.”

The production is dense, busy, and prominent throughout, to the point that many of these songs are unrecognizable from how they’re performed live. Brian Borcherdt, of the beloved Canadian instrumental electronic band Holy Fuck, comes on as producer. He has an obvious, even ostentatious influence, so much so that he seems more active collaborator on the album’s soundworld than merely the technician shepherding it to fruition. Still, his deft touch, most clear on the strikingly dancey “Waves,” gives Hermiston the latitude to be more adventurous, and she integrates even the most unmistakably Borcherdt-ish flourishes into her work with ease and intrigue.

This approach—simple songwriting juiced up with a complicating frisson on the backend—is rewarding even if it exhausts its potential just as the album draws to a close. Still, resourcefulness and imagination are Twist’s key strengths, the reasons for her place on Buzz, and what lifts Distancing above common underground rock and into rarer air.

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