‘Homeworlding’ cements Fraternal Twin as one of indie rock’s up-and-comers

By Jackson Maxwell

Fraternal Twin Official Facebook Page
(Fraternal Twin Official Facebook Page)

One of the best, and most overlooked, punk records of 2015 was the self-titled debut from New Paltz, New York’s Quarterbacks.

Featuring 19 breathless tales of formative, awkward romance from the pen of one Dean Engle, “Quarterbacks” is a frenzied ride. It’s wild enough that it feels like the tidal wave of momentum Engle and his bandmates need to blast through so many 60-second songs could completely fall apart at any given second.

Of course, that was also a huge part of the record’s appeal. But it’s clear, with repeated listens, that “Quarterbacks” leans heavily on a steady anchor beneath its frenetic facade. That anchor was Quarterbacks’ bassist, Tom Christie, who manages to effortlessly ground all of Engle’s overflowing fixations.

Perhaps the grounding effect Christie has in Quarterbacks is what gives him the freedom to make his own band, Fraternal Twin, as difficult to pin down as it is. Emerging just three months after the release of “Quarterbacks,” Fraternal Twin left an indelible mark with “Skin Gets Hot,” an immersive, unpredictable album that constantly alternates between elusiveness and bracing intimacy.

The band’s sophomore effort, “Homeworlding,” channels everything that made “Skin Gets Hot” one of 2015’s most quietly fascinating records and builds on it. The mix is punchier, the instrumentation (provided by the dexterous, full-time rhythm section of Max Restaino on drums and David Grimaldi on bass) is more engaging and Christie’s songwriting, always the band’s biggest strength, is even more impressive on this go-around.

As was the case with its predecessor, “Homeworlding,” released Oct. 14, never really settles into any one mood or pace. It opens with the blissful “False Alarm,” a perfectly at ease piece of jangle pop that finds Christie saying “There are always gonna be false alarms/but they are something you can count on.”

Whether or not this line, or the opaque lyrics of the similarly beautiful “Deprive,” are meant to come off as anxious is a possibility that rests mainly on the listener’s interpretation. Depending on your mood, you can either let Christie’s words slide in and out of your consciousness while absorbing the gorgeous arrangements, or focus on reading between the lines. What’s remarkable is that either path is incredibly rewarding.

Equally as affecting, though, are the moments where “Homeworlding” is more subdued. “Shapeless,” which features only Christie and his cyclical guitar playing, finds him in uncertain waters. “I was wrung out/and I felt shapeless/so I try/to make sense/of my own reflection,” Christie sings out over the guitar, which seems to let every chord change hang in the balance with his words.

One can find Christie just as unguarded on the wonderful closer, “Freakish Glow.” Pretty much the closest thing on “Homeworlding” to a by-the-numbers love song it is the project’s most affecting ballad to date. Over a similar, slow-motion riff, Christie ends the album with the lines “I see you with that freakish glow/that I’ve come to know/you took a grudge/and turned it into something better.”

Even more so than “Skin Gets Hot,” “Homeworlding” merges the experience of listening to DIY punk and high-concept classic rock. Though it’s easy to imagine being blown away by these songs in a tiny venue (because of the band’s obvious roots in punk rock), the tracks on “Homeworlding” have the richness and complexity of progressive rock albums that likely cost hundreds of times more to make.

If such an album sounds unlikely, that’s because it is. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone other than Fraternal Twin that can make it.

Jackson Maxwell can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter at @JMaxwell82.