BY ALLI MARSHALL
I love the name Twin Cabins because it makes me think of a cute cluster of summer camp cottages at the edge of a glossy lake across which canoes glide and campers while away idyllic childhood days of endless sunshine and S’mores-coated grins.
This is not what Twin Cabins (the band) sounds like. Not rustic, not Americana kitsch, not marshmallow sticky or “Kumbaya” cloying. But it is sun-dappled and informed by those summers late in youth when growing pains ache in the joints and the feeling of loss is only second to the sense of nostalgia for a time that’s not yet slipped from reach.
Twin Cabins is the bedroom project of Nacho Cano who was born in Mexico City and lives in San Diego. Highwire Daze writes that “Cano created truly Californian dreamlike and catchy melodies that reflected sentiments of love, frustration, and personal conflict,” and there is something to the idea of the non-native resident capturing a spirit that’s so American. So über-American, so sun-bleached and salt-sprayed, surfy, beachy, expansive. It’s the experience of the outsider looking in and really seeing things as they are. But I’m Sure, the nine-track album set for release at some as-yet undisclosed point in the future (you can check out 6 songs at www.twincabins.bandcamp.com/album/im-sure-album-sample; a message on the page from Cano explains, “There has been a common mistake that this is an ep but it’s actually an album sampler. I am simply allowing people to listen to some of the album before it is properly released. The album is actually 9 tracks long and it is already complete.”) is also informed by the outsider point of view. I mean, the album kicks off with “Lonely Summer,” an upbeat, drum-driven jog through cool air currents and pastel washes of guitar in which the opening line is “You seem sadder than before.”
But the sadness doesn’t stick. What Cano crafts is a wave cresting, a kite held aloft, a line of pelicans winging across a peachy sunset. Which is to say, if there’s melancholy in this collection of songs — a series of missives to loves past, present (“I keep falling for you, like you don’t want me to,” he sings on “Laika”) and not yet met — it’s more sweet than bitter. This is heartache cast in the washed out light of a faded Polaroid. Melodies are ion-rich, guitars and keys edge toward their high registers; only the bass remains steadfast and earthy in its consistenT thump.
“Bridges” takes a turn toward a nocturne. The pace slows to a sexy sway; Cano’s vocal is a sigh that recalls João Gilberto as much as contemporaries Beach House and Tennis. Which is why I’m Sure, despite its debut status, also reveals an old soul, a timelessness. Beach music (not in the sense of shag dancing or cruising around in a surfboard-topped Jeep Wagoneer, but, rather in the sense of ocean-inspired chill wave and indie-pop) seeps into the human psyche. It reminds of good times. Of childhood, vacations and the scent of Hawaiian Tropic. And it also feels blissfully, effortlessly, offhandedly cool.
The album’s title track showcases as easy falsetto (I hear through the grapevine it’s a backup singer, but the advance album doesn’t come with notes). Lyrics rise and fall from the buzz and reverb of an experimental melody line. It dances between pop and noise, sometimes harmonic and sometimes dissonant, but discordant only long enough to add an edge.
The bright, bouncy “Pretty Bones” sweeps any darkness under the rug and dances along a staccato keyboard line and snappy percussion. A chorus of voices shower layered paean scatter-shot over the melody.
Final track “Swing Lynn” makes tidy work of bringing the album back, if not to its starting point (because I’m Sure doesn’t really have a narrative trajectory), than to a sense of equilibrium. Here, it’s all cozy warm tones, shimmering guitars, fleet drums and a sweetly narcotic progression down scales. Cannon sings that he “would rather die than feel this pain,” but the cause of his angst is simply a girl with whom he wants to dance. And in the end he leaves us with this affirmation: “But I know, I’m sure.” Which feels right. It floats back into the dream. The dance can wait. It’ll happen. There’s sand and salt air and a star-strewn sky. It’s a photo finish.
DOWNLOAD: “Lonely Summer,” “Cool Kids.”