Helmed by Juniper Nights frontman James Gallagher, Pet Twin is the kind of side project that could eclipse the musician’s “main band”. On this 2023 release, Gallagher explores a sound that’s very retro and yet almost timeless.
Atop an almost tango-like rhythm, the shimmering guitar chords that provide the heart of ‘Cabrini-Green’ tap into a world of dream pop coolness, but at the same time convey hints of older indie pop, served with a laid back cool that would certainly appeal to devotees of classic fare from the Mute and 4AD labels. The music is instantly familiar, but therein lies its true magic. The way Gallagher places semi-sparse and quite basic chords over an equally spacious backdrop shows a musician who has complete confidence in a melody. There’s nothing flashy here, or anything to clutter the main tune; it’s left to “breathe” in a way that really brings everything to life, despite never seemingly being in a rush to impress. At the same time, his deep vocal taps into a sound that fans of classic indie pop will love. In a couple of places, his tone occasionally hints at the natural approach of Jarvis Cocker at his richest; in others, he appears to evoke the moodiness of Tindersticks man Stewart A. Staples. Whichever way you approach this track, the easy and slightly dour tones are a perfect fit with the understated tune. After three or four listens, the shimmering guitar lines and delayed notes start to feel like a very familiar friend, and despite the lack of massive hook, ‘Cabrini-Green’ marks out a place as a great track.
Joining the main event, the digital release is coupled with ‘Lonely Ghost’, a musical sketch that ventures deeper into Pet Twin’s world of spooky minimalism. In a little under a minute, the number conjures an atmosphere of its own, when echoing, 50s style guitar sounds drop in and out of a near silence. The choice of vocal is even more interesting, since James uses it to take on the role of extra instrumentation. By slowing and manipulating his voice, he at first sounds like a fretless bass. After a little adjustment time, it becomes a little clearer that its a weird vocal sent to put the listener off balance. By the time you get the measure of the piece, it fades out, as ghost-like as the title suggests. Strange, interesting, dark; so much for just fifty seconds, but it works.
Short and sweet, this pair of tracks provides a wonderful, if brief, window into a great talent. Pet Twin is one of those acts that shows how originality can take a back seat if the tunes and the mood is great enough to carry everything, and in ‘Cabrini-Green’, you’ll find the kind of song that’ll make you want to explore the artist’s semi-minimalist even further. With the sheer bulk of digital music available at the push of a button, this is in danger of getting lost in a world of noise, but it’s a recommended listen that’s well worth seeking out.