“In ten tracks Twen charts a course across the sound waves of trans-Atlantic pop on their second LP One Stop Shop. Story has it, the band’s been #vanlife-ing since the pandemic, writing songs as they navigate their way through a society on the edge of collapse. The urgency of the moment percolates throughout the album, as does a healthy dose of classic FM radio. One Stop Shop is a love letter written to what gets left behind when you hit the road. Melancholic, with half an eye on the rearview mirror, whilst brimming with energy and excitement about the adventure ahead…
The Twen Towers in terms of songwriting are Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones. The pair demonstrates a keen affinity for turn of the millennium Britpop. Shades of Oasis, which comes with its own rearview mirror agenda. Like those Manchester strumhounds, Twen imbues what might have been ordinary pop ditties with an improbable sense of the epic – and they do it primarily by means of the six-string. The sound of One Stop Shop is determined by that era’s commitment to the guitar (all types: jangly! reedy! sparkly! reverby! tinny! meaty! buzzy! and more…) as the main vehicle for communicating structure, feeling, mood, texture.
“Brooklyn Bridge” is a winsome jammer. An electric guitar introduces a descending hook that wilts like a week-old sunflower. The song transitions from electric to acoustic guitar, as a more coffeehouse chord progression takes over on the verses. Twen deftly blends both textures of the six-string into a single world of sound as well as any band you’ve heard lately. Like their Britpop influences, Twen buries itself into influences to pull out something new. “HaHaHome” plays out like a pop raga from yesteryear. It’s hard to believe there’s not a sitar buried in the mix. The vocals reverberate over a drone-y bass in long, sweeping verses that brush up against the chorus like waves washing up on shore.
Twen takes pain to distance itself from the kind of band trying to prey on your “rock-n-roll nostalgia,” and they’re right to. But you’d be committing a critical oversight not to draw a connection between songs like “HaHaHome” and the raga rock of the ’60s and ‘70s. Extra points for the tripped out, artfully layered production on the background vocals that would feel right at home on a late Beatles track.
Fitzsimmon’s own voice ranks as a close second in terms of the most signature Twen instrument: without her range and preternatural feel for rock-n-roll permutations, the album couldn’t have been half as ambitious.
“Long Throat” is a throaty vocal for the singer, a prime example of her use of voice breaks (a kind of yodel vibe) to move the mood of songs into more exotic regions. The ‘voice break’ is like a vocal purist’s version of stepping on the effects pedal, catapulting the singer up and down the scale to stratospheric heights or infernal depths in a split second. Vocal aliens like Björk practically live full time in these strange regions. Fitzsimmons, and most human vocal cord-havers, just visit from time to time.
“Automation” leans hard into the Anglophiliac vocal accents. Is the lead singer British? Available biographical information suggests that Twen cut its teeth in New England, not England. This isn’t a call out for authenticity – it’s just a question from a writer trying to hash out lines of influence. If an abiding love of Britpop was the only reason Fitzsimmons flexed the accent, that would be reason enough. Is that the reason? Twen includes a few tracks in One Stop Shop that will make your dance party playlist. “Feeling In Love (From the Waist Down)” is a straight up club track, albeit one from an era when people still danced to rock n roll. It’s hard to hear the song (maybe the whole album) without seeing visions of a Paul Thomas Anderson period piece in your mind’s eye. The piece in question… maybe Licorice Pizza or Boogie Nights? The parenthetical wink at the listener (From the Waist Down) is too earnestly awkward to count as tawdry. It’s the kind of quip you’d make at a teen disco.
“Fortune 500” and “Bore U” pick up the baton from “Feeling In Love…” The former is a sparkly and danceable janglefest. Shades of Stone Roses – the percussion has bounce and the guitar lick has that thin, reedy quality and hardly any meat on the bone. If Jane Fitzsimmons’ vocals had a color, the color would be Burnt Sienna. Deep, powerful, earthy, a little damaged. The latter “Bore U” drives even deeper into the late disco domain, with Fitzsimmons’ vocals riding on top of the beat like a more ballsy, less breathy Blondie.
The social and political messages in One Stop Shop are not lost on the listener. It would be hard to drive around the highways and byways of America during the pandemic and not translate that panorama of social disintegration into your songwriting. Twen’s message is more “live your truth,” delivered in the lingo of pop lyrics, than any particular dogma. What is communicated above all is a longing for a sense of place – whether that means feeling comfortable in your own skin or having a bed without four wheels – coupled with a creeping suspicion that anything worth knowing or doing is accomplished along the way, rather than at the final destination. The album celebrates life on the road, but also hints at the exhaustion that comes with the relentless grind of the proverbial #vanlife. For some of us, one circuit around the country sucking down meals at roadside diners is enough adventure for a lifetime. One Stop Shop is written for those blessed and cursed souls, who love a homecoming, but just can’t wait to get back on the road again.” - Mike Gutierrez
On July 22, DIYers twen self-released their 2nd LP ‘One Stop Shop’; a collection of 10 songs that finds the band writing, producing, mixing, directing, designing, booking and managing their own project. In an age of mediocre songs with pristine studio-production, One Stop Shop provides an antidote with 10 hook-laden compositions, chock-full of purposeful, inspired rock songs about modern life in 2022. Half-written tunes, downloaded beats, multi-producer records, stylists and PR teams should run for the hills.
Throughout the pandemic, Jane Fitzsimmons & Ian Jones self-converted their Dodge Promaster Tour-Van into a full-time, doomsday mobile-home; complete with solar power, carpentry, plumbing, propane, and refrigeration, all with their own four hands. Living in it full-time since February of 2021, 20 songs were written; 15 recorded, and 10 chosen for their post-pandemic proclamation. The songs are beautifully evocative, political without being patronizing or pandering, and widespread in their diversity of sounds & emotions. Title track “One Stop Shop (For A Fading Revolution)” is a propulsive overture for the end times, while “HaHaHome”, the album’s lead single- is an ode to brit-pop with a Stone-roses-esque bassline that could even make Paul McCartney jealous. “Brooklyn Bridge” showcases the duo’s ability to craft metaphorically complex lyrics that are simultaneously immediate because of the heartfelt prosody of Fitzsimmons’ vocals- vocals that until now, would’ve seemed out of twen’s former wheelhouse as “indie-psych-rockers”. On “Feeling In Love (From the Waist Down)” and “Sweet Dreams (In the Parking Lot)” they make good on their promise to ‘never write the same song twice’. Important; considering how many bands in the cultural sphere get by as one-trick ponies.
In addition, twen have solidified a 5 piece line-up, consisting of Merideth Hanscom on bass guitar, Asher Horton on guitar, and Luke Fedorko on drums. To show it all off, the band will be headlining 2 NYC shows at TV EYE & Mercury Lounge, before embarking on their biggest break yeta 24 city North American Tour supporting Rainbow Kitten Surprise. (All of this without an agent, management, or PR team)
When you take it all in, twen are proving to be among the most original, hardworking and authentic American rock bands today. Not because they are tiktok viral, or posing in decades-cosplay and attempting to draw you in by preying on your rock-n-roll nostalgia, but because they are writing great songs, traveling the country in a van they built themselves, self-producing their own art, screenprinting their own merch, and doing it their way, all against the backdrop of the apocalypse. That image can’t be crafted by a team, and just as has always been the case, that freedom is what rock n’ roll really feels like.