Emo's casual, inadvertent misogyny is well-documented, but Stephens' desperate screeds aren't so much hazardous to women as they are self-flagellating. On paper, Two Gallants is a breakup record of epic proportions, a collection of folk-rock songs exploring the awkward, agonizing aftermath of failed love. It's hard not to cringe when Stephens caws things like, "I'm just as full of hate as I used to be/ But in the hour of my demise/ I'll recall your empty eyes/ You know I died the day you set me free"-- although, truth be told, these are the exact sorts of overblown proclamations that make perfect, stupid sense when you're on the business end of a relationship-ending chat.
The sprightly "Miss Meri" indicts grand American hubris, with Stephens spitting caustic barbs ("Same old story, blood, sweat, glory... So-called country men who bless this stolen ground") before chomping down on a harmonica, the classic vehicle for working-class, campfire laments. For the most part, "Miss Meri" summarizes Two Gallants' general approach to music-making: Stephens (oddly credited as Adam Brinkman Stephens Fontaine) bellows impassioned screeds while partner and childhood pal Tyson Vogel (see also: Tyson Dillingham Corvidae) beats perfect rhythms on his drum kit, solemn, intense, and impossibly strident.
Musically, Two Gallants offers the same blend of pseudo-Americana the band built its reputation on: a grainy mix of classic blues, folk, and electric guitar. Vocals are mixed high and loud, and Stephens' caterwauls are the most prominent sound here. Opener "The Deader" sees Stephens shouting over curly guitar and some unexpected rhythms; "Despite What You've Been Told" is so comparably spare that it almost feels a capella. There's a certain vocal cadence inherent to the genre that can start to feel awfully repetitive over the course of a full-length LP-- the lyrics never stop, and words keep piling up on top of each other, barely punctuated by instrumentation. The bitterness doesn't help: On "Reflections of the Marionette", Stephens declares, "I don't want to see you fall/ I just want to see you fail," before continuing to chastise his unnamed nemesis for invading his hometown. It's tempting to write Stephens off as self-obsessed (which, in all fairness, places him in a long line of beloved singer-songwriters, from Bob Dylan on), but nonetheless, there are some compelling melodies here and more than enough commitment.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3