Vermilion Sands

posted: 2023-12-30 The Twits bar italia

released: 2023-11-03
on label: Matador
artist: bar italia
genre: Slacker Rock
with some: Post-PunkNoise PopNeo-Psychedelia
more reviews: Pitchfork The Guardian

On their second album of 2023, bar italia prove there are enough dimensions to their music to justify their prolific output. Their first album of the year, Tracey Denim, already showed how they were refining their sidewinding melodies, intentionally murky sonics, and confessional songwriting, and further absorbing influences like the Cure, Blonde Redhead, and My Bloody Valentine into their own arresting style. On The Twits, they double down on this approach as well as their remarkable ability to sound aloof and urgent at the same time.

The Tracey Denim earworm “Nurse!” provides the template for the extroverted introversion of highlights like “World’s Greatest Emoter” and “My Little Tony,” where Nina Cristante’s voice floats coolly above the surging riffs as she sings “Your pretentious ways/Make me die a little.” The thicker, heavier sound the trio opts for on The Twits looms and seethes, further heightening the tension of Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi, and Sam Fenton’s shared vocals. The twining and splitting narratives offer a Rashomon-like take on indie rock, lending a distinct sense of movement and broader perspectives to bar italia’s songs. On the swampy “Que Surprise,” Fehmi kicks things off with a mood of sexy menace (“My name is on your lips/So why not take it off fast”) that Fenton pushes into desperation (“Good time friends/God, I need them”) and Cristante makes morbid (“There were birds in the sky/Premonition of death”).

This tag-team approach gives the band a fresh way of expressing the dynamics of relationships that matches their growing storytelling abilities. They commiserate with each other on “Jelsy“‘s slinky brooding and deliver a triple takedown of a shared enemy on “Hi Fiver,” but their verses on “Twist”’s aftermath of a love triangle feel like separate eyewitness reports littered with striking imagery (“there was sweat mixed with tears”). The Twits’ music shifts nearly as much as the band’s vocals and moods, moving from the Tracy Denim-esque melted post-punk of “Real house wibes (desperate house vibes)” to the life-affirming shoegaze of “sounds like you had to be there” to the glowering restraint of “Shoo,” one of the biggest surprises on an album full of them. A darker, deconstructed companion to Tracey Denim, The Twits reflects bar italia’s growth into an increasingly singular, expressive band.