Twin Prop Plane
Hand Across My Mouth
Hand Across My Mouth is available at:
Indie; Folk; Alternative.
12th December 2016
James Taylor - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Songwriter Alex Murphy - Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals, Percussion Davina Panjanaden - Violin, Backing Vocals Edwin Magombe - Keyboard Ivan Polakovic - Drums Kristoffer Rylander - Producer, Additional Percussion
GROUPS will be focused on this year as…
we confidently head into February. We have already heard great albums from The xx (not a fan myself but their new one has been well-received) and more looks set to follow. I have stated how solo artists will be put in the spotlight this year. That is the way the end-of-year polls went: highlighting the finest solo artists around the country. Most of these – well, a lot – are Urban artists and define a new demand in music. It seems like there is a clambering for artists that differ from the normal and provide something vital and urgent. I want to chat about influences again – a subject that is always relevant – and why we should be excited about music this year (more so than last). Before that, I am presented with a five-piece act that gets me thinking about dynamics and band sizes. It might seem like an odd lead-off but most bands tend to be four-piece. You get duos and trios – are they bands?! – but you do not hear many five-pieces. Twin Prop Plane are inspired by Arcade Fire – a six-piece I shall invoke later – and have healthy numbers in the ranks. The reason I want to bring this up is to show the strength in numbers. I have extolled the virtues of duos and solo artists but have not spent a huge time on bands. It is said, as I have proffered several times, bands are becoming less essential and original. The past couple of years have not seen too many great, enduring groups pop up – compared with solo artists anyway. That seems troubling considering just how many new bands you hear coming through. Every week, it seems like there is a dozen-or-so new groups being hailed as future wonders. Why, therefore, do they not remain in the mind and make their way to the mainstream? Perhaps it is the bands already at that level not providing ample influence and guidance.
I think of 2016, and when it comes to band-made albums, struggle to think of too many I can name. To my ear, the best music of last year was made by solo performers. This year, there seems to be a slight shift happening. I mentioned The xx but other bands, like Elbow, are preparing to release their latest album (Little Fictions). After that, there will be a run of interesting band-created albums for us to sink our teeth into. I know solo artists have been much represented in magazines and polls but keep your ears open and hear what bands are providing. I am excited about Dutch Uncles and what Big Balloon (their upcoming album) will sound like. More than anything, it is those eager bands of the underground that are pricking my ears. I will not name names – there is a long, long list – but some definite mainstream acts of the future. I am not talking about bands that sound like everyone else and have that predictable, plodding nature. The Amazons, long-listed by BBC as an artist to watch in 2017, define what I mean: good, honest music that is free from pretention and gets crowds jumping. Getting back to my original point and I am pleased to see a five-piece come my way. I guess there are a lot of bands that are quintets but you do not really seem them heavily promoted. With that extra member, if you feel a band should be a quartet, it provides extra weight, strength and drive. In the case of Twin Prop Plane, they are a bi-gender, mixed race band that I feel will go quite far. Again, we often overlook gender and race in bands – something that should be highlighted more. I am seeing mixed gender groups form but largely they are either all-male or all-female (much rarer). More often than not, there will be the balance of male-female with the boys taking the majority share – as is the case of Twin Prop Plane (and Arcade Fire for that matter). I love the traditional four-piece bands but find they are not that varied and too homogenised.
I am an advocate of promoting women in music and seeing more of them in bands – not feeling off-put and feeling that is a male-dominated side of music. I have written pieces about the imbalance in music regarding gender and race so finding bands that are not all-white, all-male is a progressive and positive step. Whether it is only a small change it makes a huge amount of difference. In order for music to move forward and not have stigma and subjugation; there needs to be a look at the current scene and raising questions. I will go into more depth in the conclusion but am keen to get to my featured act. They are a band that have a lot planned for this year and are worth a lot of attention and praise. They go by the name of Twin Prop Plane:
“The five-piece draw on an eclectic mix of influences include indie bands such as Belle and Sebastian, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire and The Mountain Goats as well as from jazz and classical music. Founded by singer/songwriter James Taylor, their sound often contrasts light moods with subtle lyrical meaning.
The single launch party took place at The George Tavern in Shadwell on Sunday 11th December and the band have played at venues across the capital such as The Barfly, The Enterprise and The Old Queen’s Head since they formed in 2016.
The band are playing at The Workshop, Hoxton on Thursday 2nd February 2017 and are taking bookings for the new year”.
It might seem foolhardy talking about a band’s influences in the context of original material. Every group has influences but always want to be seen as distinct. That is the case with Twin Prop Plane but the band sources Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire as idols. Those are two North American acts that interest me greatly. Not only are they separate from Indie/Rock groups – artists influenced by the same old bands; a rather unsophisticated sound – these twin bands are defined by their inventiveness, intelligence and soundscapes. Arcade Fire are making a charge this year and already released an anti-Trump song – the marvellous I Give You Power. Following from their previous record, Reflektor, the Canadian band are readying themselves for new music. What has always defined their sound is a sense of humanity and familiarity. You bond with songs and become involved with them. Whether you prefer albums like Neon Bible and The Suburbs; plump for Reflektor or Funeral – so many beautiful, hugely evocative moments to cherish. It is hard to define just what makes their music stand out: maybe the detailed, story-like lyrics or the colourful compositions. The same can be said for Vampire Weekend. The U.S. band are always pushing the envelope and subverting expectations. They sit outside the arena of their peers and produce some of the most accomplished and fascinating music around. In the same way music you hear in your childhood influences later tastes: the bands/acts musicians fall for defines their direction. I like a good Rock band who can bring the noise and invigorate the senses. What I have found, over the past years, are too many bands taking artists like Led Zeppelin and Arctic Monkeys, for instance, and replicating their sound – without offering anything new and original. If you are compelled by a band then you should not just copy what they are doing. Twin Prop Plane have the same attributes. They are more than capable of providing energetic, spirited music but do so much more. There are stories and true-to-life revelations; stunning melodies and nuanced treasures. I am basing this off of a single but I can hear those embers of Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire; more than that, a band that has their own voice and are among the most interesting and distinct in the U.K.
This year, as I have said, is an exciting one for sure. Not only is the music itself proving to be more intriguing and diverse but there is a human need for musical positivity. 2016 was a rather brutal and relentless one for many reasons. Political shifts and division seemed to define the year; there was a definite negativity passing over the planet. Aside from that, we experienced musical legends passing and were subjected to so many horrors around the globe. I have proffered how music has a duty to fill the void and cheer souls. It is a platform that does not judge or have its own agenda. If last year was a fantastic and vital one for music then this year seems likely to top that. I have stated how there will be some great albums (made by bands) emerging but some wonderful young solo artists are showcasing their talent. Aside from RAY BLK and Jorja Smith there is Loyle Carner and Anderson.Paak. Not only is there going to be more racial diversity (promoting the new artists) but, I hope, women will play a larger role. Setting aside gender and race, it seems like quality alone will be at an absolute peak. We all need a happier and more uplifting year: finding music that calms and invigorates – in addition to inspiring and motivating. Where do Twin Prop Plane fit into this dichotomy? Well, the London band has that established and confident sound that could resonate from a mainstream act. They sound confident and solid in this early stage. I know 2017 is going to be hectic for them but in a good way. I am thrilled by the new artists arriving and cannot wait to see how this year pans out. In previous years, there have been too many samey bands and Pop-driven acts that are quite sugary and generic. Last year saw less of that and a move towards real, genuine music. That will continue throughout 2017 and provide the public with some tremendous sounds.
The competition is fierce in the band market: that is especially true of London. The capital is growing and becoming much more prominent as a music centre. Of course, London has always been prominent and important but that is increasing. If you consider bands, there is such a choice it is quite dizzying. I know, whenever I review a London band, I tip them to go far but that is true for Twin Prop Plane. They will be patient and continue to work hard. I know there will be hurdles to overcome but the five-piece will negotiate them ably. What interests me about Twin Prop Plane is how different they sound to everyone else. Music will be exciting this year and I expect Twin Prop Plane to make headway. I am not sure what their plans are with regards albums and E.P.s but one hopes something will arrive later in the year. Hand Across My Mouth is a brilliant and assured first single that will get a lot of people excited. The band have launched the single and gained some positive feedback. It is daunting, in this early stage, deciding where to go and how things will unfold. I will be backing the band and sure they’ll take their music up and down the U.K. We need to promote our great national bands and ensure they get as many opportunities as they can. We are at a point where London’s music venues are safe. There have been no more closures and it seems like new artists can breathe a sigh of relief. There are those places to perform and music lovers are rejoicing. Twin Prop Plan are in the perfect city for opportunities and will take full advantage. Against the bad memories of 2016, there is a tide of hope and strength in 2017. Our young and eager musicians are here to help and bring smiles to faces.
As usual, at this point in any of my reviews, I look back at the artist’s back catalogue and see where their new song fits into that. Given this is the debut cut from Twin Prop Plane, I shall plough straight ahead and review the song in question. Not only does the band’s name itself provoke questions and images – there must be a story behind the name one would have thought? – but their debut single has quite an intriguing title. You imagine a sense of suppression and violence; a struggle and silencing perhaps. Hand Across My Mouth does not begin with violent exclamation or any sudden rush. Instead, there is a pastoral sense of calm and reflection. The violin is the most prominent instrument in the opening moments and sets the tone of the song. It provides something quite tender and comforting but imbued with a sense of trepidation and fear. When one hears the skipping acoustic guitar line there is a certain familiarity to that. It is the violin accompaniment that turns a potentially well-worn and overly-familiar introduction into something new and striking. There is not much time spent on the introduction which allows the lyrics to start affecting. When one hears the lead sing about a “microgram or carcinogens” you think of illness and disease. Whether that is a physical ailment or a general feeling of unease it is hard to say. Whilst he will flush the body and come out of the shower cleansed and pure, you start to speculate what the song’s origins are. Given the title (Hand Across My Mouth) I feel there is an emotional/political element to the song. It is hard to think of any song in an age of Trump that is not motivated by him.
When hearing and watching him on T.V. there is that feeling of unease and sickness – like we need to take a long shower. One imagines the band were casting around elsewhere for inspiration but it is would be interesting discovering whether there was a political motivation. Our hero wants the Devil to get away and cast from his soul. I have mentioned bands like Vampire Weekend (when comparing Twin Prop Plane) but there is a definite Folk feeling early on. Maybe not quite as soft and grave as a Nick Drake track: you get a feeling of the man when hearing the strings combination and types of messages proffered. The hero is walking through supermarket aisles aimlessly and robotically collecting his shopping. He is “Bored to tears” every hour of the day and akin to a ship’s captain navigating a ship through the waters. Right away, you get a feeling of a man who needs to change things up and find excitement. When you hear love songs and the usual fare, there is always a real limitation with regards inspiration and motivation. You hear an artist’s personal view and broken heart, and whilst that is important in modern music, how many of us are compelled to do something and change out ways? With Hand Across My Hand, one reflects on their own life and just how exciting it is. I myself have that same feeling of fatigue and stuck-in-a-rut-boredom. Walking the supermarkets zombie-like is a common feeling; needing things to improve is a regular dream of mine. If the band strike a chord and resonate in one verse, they create something quite unexpected and distant in the next. “Raise up your hand and strike a blow for the hegemony” begins the next verse but talks of “letters dictated authoritatively”.
The “Gujarati niece” (from Milton Keynes) has been trying to remain free and survive the winter. It is hard to listen to the verse without casting images in your mind and wondering what is being referred to. Maybe that niece has rebelled against a trodden life and gone out exploring. Maybe she has remained at home but is enjoying a different way of life. It seems the niece figure is holding on to a sense of freedom and a better life. There is a sense of the intercontinental and Asiatic; relatives and friends across the waters. “From Luton to Kolkata/From Leicester to Chennai” – everything our hero holds dear will go away to die. It is a striking sentiment but one supported by luscious, graceful strings. James Taylor and Davina Panjanaden (with Alex Murphy) combine vocals in this verse and blend together wonderfully. Panjanaden’s violin continues to provide virtue and romance – with a degree of sadness and strain. Vishnu will preserve our man whilst Shiva will destroy. One suspects Panjanaden’s Asian background might have influenced the lyrics and the projection of Shiva and Vishnu. There are few songs that bring the two together if you think about it. That sense of unpredictability is what makes Hand Across My Mouth a very intriguing song. When singing about “you boy” (our man won his knees, fingers in the dirt), one speculates who is being talked about. Many of the song’s lyrics are quite oblique so it can be challenging really digging to the core. That is part of the beauty really: you would not want things to be too clear-cut and spoil any sense of mystery. Whereas the opening verse was a calm and acoustic-led; things become more rousing and spirited past the halfway mark. If Taylor is inspired by the North American likes of Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire; it is Noah and the Whale who come through in his vocal delivery and sound. You get suggestions of Charlie Fink and his distinct sound.
Continuing on its plight, the song looks at a “future practitioner of dentistry”: a son “still living in sin” and secrecy. He is a chapped-lipped, cravated teenager (they are becoming so common these days!) and you are transported back to a past time. The descriptions and characters do not seem to fit into the modern world, such is their quirkiness and old-world charm. From the opening verse and its obvious sentiments, you step more into the literary world. One wonders whether the future practitioner and teenager are one of the same or two distinct characters. Elsewhere, two blue-lit torsos are listening to the radio’s faint embers and the smell of (burnt) cumin seeds. The scenes are so evocative and beautifully described you might need a few listens to really concentrate – distracted as you are by the sheer poetry and beauty of the lyrics. It is at this point I become less interested in pure meaning and truth and start to enjoy the words in a different way. Few bands have the descriptive powers and original bent as Twin Prop Plane. They are not an arty band who stuff clever-clever lyrics in to compensate for a lack of music and vocal prowess. Throughout Hand Across My Mouth, you get the sense of a band who can fit into the mainstream but give direction to insipid and stereotyped bands who need guidance – just how you should write a song. Whether the London band’s future songs will focus on love, or follow the same path of Hand Across My Mouth, I know they will continue to create fascinating songs. In this one, we are watching a raised cup brought to the lips. Every “net curtain twitches” and “every letter box creaks” as the rain soaks through the jeans of the hero. It seems to come back to the opening verse and that sense of weariness. Our hero goes into the future at an incredible speed and walks through the rain-painted streets. The band delivers the final verses with chorusing, hand-claps and dancing strings. It is a stop-start composition that goes from energetic to sedate. You never quite know what to expect but are caught in the sheer vibrancy and colour of the song. There are Celtic strings and Folk touches; U.S. influence and the sound of the city streets. By the end, you have to drink it all in and come to your own conclusions. It might take a few more spins to grasp everything and really understand every line and storyline. Hand Across My Mouth is a song that introduces a band unlike no other but not too distinct that means you struggle to relate. It is a confident, full and intelligent song with an impressively tight and together performance and plenty of repeatability.
Hand Across My Mouth is the start of things for Twin Prop Plane. They have the song out there and it is pleasing to hear them come out strong. After launching the single at The George Tavern (on 11th December) they are preparing to play The Workshop, Hoxton on 2nd February. In the ultra-cool recess of the capital, it is a chance to bring the music to new followers and potential D.J.s. Hoxton Radio is based nearby and, perhaps, an opportunity for the quintet to impress. That is what they are doing at the moment and it is tempting to see where they can head. I am very proud of British music and the sheer vitality and wealth of talent out there. London is, as many would expect, leading the way and providing some sensational new artists. I am confident bands will come more to the fore (I shall expand on that shortly) and feel Twin Prop Plane will enjoy some success. I try not to leap ahead and speculate where a band will go after a single song. I would like to think the London quintet will release more songs – whether that is an album or E.P. I am not sure. It sounds like there is excitement and confidence in the band so it seems likely we’ll get more material sooner rather than later. In terms of their touring schedule, they do not have to struggle as much as others. Those based out of cities – in smaller towns for example – often find a limited local scene to ply their trade. They are one of the most interesting bands playing out of the capital so I would urge them to keep plugging and making new music. They will balance those commitments with the demands of the road. There is the need to get Hand Across My Mouth out there and exposed. The song goes deep and ensures it remains long in the memory. It is rare discovering music that does that: hits you pretty hard but is deep and detailed enough you’re curiously picking it apart for weeks to come.
That is a commodity the band should not ignore and keep going strong. I speculated as to whether they would release an E.P. or album. Whatever they have planned, I know it will follow the same sort of path as Hand Across My Mouth. I opened by talking about bands and mixing configurations up a bit. We see, all too often, the all-male dynamic appear. It can get quite predictable and is something that needs to be overhauled. I am not suggesting all bands need to recruit female members but it is richness and diversity that Twin Prop Plane possesses that is their strength. That range is not just confined to gender either. I have reviewed a lot of all-male, all-white bands and get a bit fatigued after a while. The way music will evolve is for certain archetypes and stereotypes to be shattered and rebuilt. I have written pieces about how there is an imbalance in music in terms of race and gender. Female artists have to work harder to get the same chances as their male peers. When it comes to black and Asian acts; they are often overlooked by and large – or at least are not afforded the same publicity as a white artist for instance. We are starting to see some changes and positivity come through but it is a small step – one that has taken a long time to occur. Twin Prop Plane have that natural friendship in the ranks and do not have to prove anything. Just by seeing their members – the balance of gender and race – I am already more compelled and interested than I otherwise would have been. That is not to say I have an agenda or ‘club rules’ but is good to see a band that is not the same as everyone else. This extends past appearances and goes right into the music.
I know the guys have their influences – I have mentioned Arcade Fire enough – but, in true terms, they are very much their own band. Yes, you can hear shades of others but there are things one hears in Hand Across My Mouth that makes the London band an original and impressive force. Those lyrics are unusual and intelligent. They are not ridden with clichés and easy rhymes; they have a real character and story to them. The artists that will shine and stand out this year are those that do not blindly replicate what is already out there. We all see those kinds of bands/artists that are happy being like the rest and expending very little energy. That is okay if you want quick, short-lasting chart success but it does not cut much mustard with those who know what they are talking about. Fortunately, Twin Prop Plane will never suffer any easy comparisons and brief success. The guys seem determined to stick around and that is a good thing. Once they have completed their gigs in the coming weeks they will be looking further ahead and what they can achieve. I would like to see them cast their mind further across the U.K. and try to score gigs as far as possible. There are some great venues and towns that would welcome them. I have seen lesser acts tour the U.K. and even find appreciation internationally. For the London group, they have a skill set and kinship that is cannot be faked or broken. Here is to them and whatever comes next. If Hand Across My Mouth is anything to go by it seems likely the band will enjoy a lot of success throughout 2017. Coming in with a debut single can be nerve-wracking and unsure. There are so many other artists out there getting heard and promoted can be really tough. No such fears for the intrepid quintet who have crafted an exceptional introduction. Their mission is set and clear: they have a plan in action and…
WILL not fail.
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