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paper buffalo

Album review: Middle Twin - City of Gold EP

Middle Twin calls its music peculiar art pop. Perhaps peculiar is in the eye of the beholder, because their new EP, City of Gold, is some of the most accessible local music I've heard lately. 
Well, sure, they're kind of unusual. In the guitar-dominated world of local music, City of Gold consists of seven keyboard-driven pop songs, propelled by live drums and electronic percussion. Sure, in their live shows, Joel Martin plays a small percussion pad with one hand and a keyboard with the other. And, oddly enough, vocalist Demi Renault has training as an opera singer and has never really played in a band before. But to me, the peculiar thing about Middle Twin is what a polished, professional EP it has produced in its short time as a band. 
Middle Twin includes two former members of the late lamented Quiet Corral, guitarist Eric Davis and drummer Isaac Flynn. The latter recorded City of Gold in his home studio. A third ex-Quiet Corral member, Jim Barnes, helped with production and mixed the project. The group is rounded out by Jonny Fitzgerald on bass and vocals, who also sings with another Lawrence band, Paper Buffalo.
The guitar generally stays in a supportive role rather than dominating the multiple keyboard lines in Middle Twin’s music. Rather than sounding noodly or nerdy, though, there's lots of ear candy here. The EP is a treat on headphones, with swirling stereo effects and interesting percussion samples galore. Somehow there is an organic quality to all these electronics, the arrangements carefully orchestrated to form an expansive, lush environment in which to place Renault's expressive vocals. 
It may be an encouraging sign of the times that Middle Twin was able to produce such a professional product on a shoestring budget. As Davis said in an email, "We were really just trying to make everything sound unique... We don't have thousands of dollars worth of analogue synthesizers, so making electronic music that doesn't sound cheap is a very big challenge." 
The most encouraging thing may be a sense that Middle Twin is just getting started. I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of them, and that's a very good thing.
Middle Twin will be opening for Fitz & the Tantrums next Friday, May 3, at KC Live in Power & Light. If you’re in Lawrence, you can catch the band on Thursday, May 8, at Jackpot Music Hall for I Heart Local Music’s Stop Day Eve Party with Psychic Heat and Forrester. Facebook event page.
--Pat Tomek

Pat plays drums in The Rainmakers, Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, and Deco Auto, and records bands at Largely Studios. 

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