Toronto’s Slim Twig has always been a productive and prolific creator, but 2012 has him taking it to a whole new level. Fresh on the heels of the August release of Sof’ Sike comes a second full-length. A Hound At The Hem is the artsy younger sibling of the more pop-leaning previous record, but the family resemblance is maintained with a 60s-washed marriage of experimental production and languid pop melodies.
The record begins with beautiful strings (arranged by Owen Pallett, no less) and harpsichord plunks, before moving into something that sounds more decidedly “Slim Twig” – he certainly knows how to embody and market his outsider persona. Many of the grooves are built through repetition – recurring guitar jumps or constant piano chords – and the vocals are delivered with a signature sneer. With this record though, the unusual instrumentation adds new layers and dimensions to the sound.
The real star of the record is the harpsichord. Most notably, the chorus of “Clerical Collar” combines the baroque instrument with cabaret group backing vocals to create something rather whimsical. The instrument returns on the ornamented instrumental hook of “Shroud by the Sheetful” two songs later and plays smaller roles throughout the rest of the album. Harpsichord sounds like a strange addition to a rock record, but Slim Twig pulls it off with panache.
Twig’s composition style is by nature indirect – outsider posturing and burying songs under layers of instruments could have worked against him. But instead, weirdness is what makes him interesting. A Hound At The Hem takes its listener through a sprawling journey with nods to the past near and far – besides the instrumental nods to the Baroque and the 60s, lyrical “Lolita” references abound – but it still sounds unequivocally now.
A Hound At The Hem is available from Pleasence Records.
Top Tracks: “Shroud by the Sheetful”, “Clerical Collar”
Rating: Proud Hoot (really good)