Twilight Singers: Dynamite Steps (review)

Twilight Singers

Dynamite Steps

Sub Pop Records

The Twilight Singers began as a side project for Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs. It’s now his principal endeavor and recently released fifth album. As with previous TS records, Dynamite Steps features Dulli alongside a number of collaborators. Some, such as singer-songwriter¬†Joseph Arthur and Screaming Trees’ frontman¬†Mark Lanegan, have been part of the Twilight Singers lineup in the past. Others, such as violinist/vocalist Petra Haden and alt-folk songstress Ani DiFranco, make their first guest appearances here.

And while having a number of collaborators in the mix keeps things vibrant and varied, the overall approach of the Twilight Singers to music-making hasn’t changed tremendously much as a result. Clangorous distorted guitars alternately blend with and serve as foils to layers of vocals, both of the sweetly sung and throatily screamed variety. As in the past, the albums’ songs inhabit a number of demeanors: brooding nocturnal visions, rollicking road songs, and bittersweet, often hard won, ballads.

But growth needn’t always mean wholesale departure. Indeed, Dulli, Lanegan, Arthur, and company seem revitalized by the updated casting, creating a record that sounds eminently more fresh and engaged than many a “post-band” project by other alternative rock stars. And at its best, on the hook heavy “She was Stolen,” the ominous yet estimably groove-buoyed “On the Corner,” and “Get Lucky,” a darkly hued mid-tempo power ballad, Dulli crafts music that both recalls some of his most engaging earlier work while simultaneously casting down a gauntlet to contemporaries half his age.

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