The Bloom and the Blight, the new album (just out this week) by San Francisco duo Two Gallants has (right from the outset, from the first kick and bark and feedback screech of lead track, “Halcyon Days”) these things that I love right now:
• raw vocals (Adam Stevens)
• furious percussion (Tyson Vogel)
• a sense of barely-contained chaos (both)
I also love a drum and guitar duo though, unlike many drum and guitar duos around right now, Two Gallants isn’t based on the blues model of that set up. This is rock. It has punk teeth, but it’s too shimmery, too prone to melodic breaks (“My Love Won’t wait”) and near-psychedelic asides to be blues. It’s indie, for sure, but it’s also sort of post indie-rock. It’s shaking off the mantle.
Listen to “My Love Won’t Wait” here:
The album is not all sonic assault. Like the title suggests, there’s bloom as much as blight. “Broken Eyes” is a folky rocker (with harmonica) and “Decay” a moody, pretty exploration through dream-pop soundscapes. Here, Stevens and Vogel layer vocals in an echo chamber, all effects and pressing dark.
“Winter’s Youth” starts sparse and stripped-down — kind of Fleet Foxes, only roughed up — but can’t hang with the aching prettiness and erupts into a nasty, distorted snarl of guitars before surfacing again. Just mallets on drums and resonant vocal, boom and hush.
Two Gallants gets dynamics, and they get emotions, but without being too precious about either. “Willie” ambles as much as it rocks, a rootsy number based in folk but tattered around its edges and smudged into this darker, reverb-blurred iteration. The heavy, writhing, thrashing “Cradle Pyre” fades as the opening notes of “Sunday Souvenirs” come up. That final track is a sober, grey dawn after a night of excess. There are hints of Zeppelin, but the decadence is torn away leaving just the elegant skeleton. Strummed guitar, warm piano notes, a melody that’ll stick with you.
For 10 tracks, Two Gallants crash and howl through songs that feel thoroughly wrung out, punished at points and cajoled at others, but always fresh. This is a collection of songs that sparkles. The Bloom and the Blight has all the makings of a discovery, of a thing only just realized.
Band photo by Eric Ryan Anderson.