Twin XL - How To Talk To Strangers
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Review by: Julie Pavlacka
Author’s Note: This review is going to be a tough one for me. I’ve known Stephen and John Gomez since 2007, we met on Myspace shortly after The Summer Set released their first song - which may have been “Cross Your Fingers”. I just remember I wasn’t really into it and that I told my best friend that they “sounded like The Maine but with a shittier singer”. Yeah, I’m kind of an asshole. Anyway, over the years these dudes became some of my favorite people. While I never see them anymore (I moved to fucking Utah - fuck me, right?), they are some of the few people that I’m entirely comfortable with. I can trust them with anything and I always know that they’ll be honest with me. That’s what I hope to do with this review. Here’s to being an asshole… (just kidding, I’m proud of them).
Twin XL's seven song EP, How To Talk To Strangers, opens with the track “Sunglasses”. Quiet drums fade in to a catchy bassline and a guitar (or synth?) - I don’t know, I don’t make music. Whatever it is... it’s a great intro. These instrumentals repeat for the rest of the song. Normally I’m not into excessive repetition, but there’s enough breaks and variations in this song that I enjoy it.
My favorite thing about this song is the lyrics. While some lyrics that are a little cheesy (any song that mentions vampires automatically annoys me, let's be real), there are also lyrics that are incredibly relatable for anybody that’s dealt with social anxiety and depression (hi, that’s me for both). The lines that hit me hard are “funny how all their faces glow, but I counted every head and I wanna go home” and “terrified of new friends, they love you and they leave you dead”. This review isn’t about me, so I’m not going to get into it - but it’s so refreshing to hear a fun, pop song that isn’t about being “passed out on her bathroom floor” (this is also a Summer Set roast if you’re here for it…). Feel good songs with honest lyrics have always been a big deal for me (e.g. Something Corporate, The Format, and Jimmy Eat World) and it’s nice to see Twin XL take advantage of that market.
The next song is “Friends”. This is another great one for us antisocial fucks that “don’t wanna go outside”. I lived in LA for a while and these lyrics really speak to how fake everyone is out there. I mean even I, the most honest and unmerciful person I know, felt myself conforming to the LA bullshit. Like the theme of the song? Well the music is even better. The whistling is constantly stuck in my head - so if you haven’t listened yet… get ready for that. The best part of this song is the bridge/alt-chorus from 1:42-2:08: quality lyrics, sick beat, and fun guitar riff. Bad things about this song? There aren’t many. It’s a little too repetitive for my liking, but that’s super “in” right now… I get it. I’m gonna continue to complain about this.
“Neon Summer” starts off so well. I think my favorite section of any of the songs on this EP is the pre-chorus to this song - the lyrics match the feeling of the music “open your eyes, set yourself free, under the sun where we wanna be”. I’m not sure why I like it so much, but that’s why music is cool - we don’t need to know why we like, or don’t like, something. I mean, except if you’re reviewing music… is this my job? Anyway, this song kind of goes downhill from there. The lyrics of this song irritate me because they’re just so cheesy and remind me a lot of the new Andrew McMahon stuff that I’ve been trying so hard to convince myself I like. The chorus is both cliche and repetitive - it’s not really about anything and just repeats “Neon Summer” and “colors” over and over. I like deep, dark, depressing lyrics - clearly...you get the point. Still not a bad song. I’ll give it a 6/10.
Track four on the EP is the first song Twin XL released, “Good”. This is definitely the hit of the EP, and there’s no denying it. This song’s whistling is more catchy than the “Friends” whistle (which is saying a lot) and the bassline is something anyone can get down to. I haven’t seen Twin XL live yet but I bet this one kills. While I do enjoy this song, lyrically it’s the most vapid song on the EP - but it does… “make me feel good”.
“Thrill” starts out with some fiesta style trumpets (but not trumpets). Leads into a verse that’s got some Ricky Martin vibes. Actually, this song is “Livin’ La Vida Loca” mixed with “The Snake Charmer”? My mistake, sorry. Moving on…
I kind of despise how the verse/vocals start off in “Everybody’s Talkin’”. I’m not sure why. It reminds me of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It”. In reality, they’re not similar but that’s all I can think of. This is my least favorite song on the EP, it’s the one song that I’ll skip if it comes on shuffle while I’m driving - that says it all. I would have left it off.
How To Talk To Strangers wraps up with “Don’t Wake Me, I’m Still Dreaming” which overall is my favorite song on the EP. This is another one that hits all the marks on my mental checklist for what makes a good song. Is the intro dramatic? Check. Are the lyrics written as a narrative? Check. Are the lyrics honest/relatable? Check. Is the chorus something I wanna sing along to? Check. Do I wanna hear more? Check. The bridge to this song reminds me of the pre-chorus to Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” - which, if you’re super judgmental, might sound like a bad thing, but hear me out, it’s not, because it’s a good fucking song.
Twin XL’s debut EP is pretty rad. The honesty of the lyrics in “Sunglasses”, “Friends”, and “Don’t Wake Me, I’m Still Dreaming” is so important. Emotional representation in songs helped me get through a lot when I was younger. These songs are open, direct, and sincere about over-thinking, feeling anxious, and wanting to hide - yet, still wanting to be a part of the world that you can’t seem to connect to. I’m hopeful that songs like these will allow people to feel more comfortable to discuss dark places and be more open to sharing when they're not in a good place. Sound wise, the EP is cohesive, all of the songs sound like they belong - yet, they’re different enough you don’t feel like you just listened to the same song seven times in a row. So - turn the volume up and listen to this on sunny days.
I think we can have high expectations from Twin XL, and I think that members, Cameron Walker-Wright, John Gomez, and Stephen Gomez, will exceed these expectations.