Shook Twins – Some Good Lives

RiYL: Rising Appalachia, Sol Heilo, The Crane Wives
Recommended Tracks: “No Choice,” “What Have We Done,” “Stay Wild”

I used to get woodsy, walk-along-the-clearwater-river type of folk vibes from Shook Twins. Now, it feels like we’re on an adventure, a spontaneous trip to somewhere no one owns. Shook Twins aren’t just twirling and dipping their feet into the water anymore- they’re climbing mountains, learning about valleys and peaks they never thought they’d get to venture. Going off the planned path not from ire, but to expand their time in nature, exploring every little wonder and life they find.

We start off the excursion with a smooth, trumpet laden, tambourine thumping, and overall funk-inducing song “What Have We Done.” It’s a powerful start, asserting what many people felt at least once in the tumbling year that was 2018: “My God, what have we done to ourselves?” The torrent subsides into “Safe,” which can be taken as a song about heartbreak or searching for stability. At the climax, the sisters’ voices and other effects overlap at an increasing rate, and then we’re left alone in the dead heat of a mirage, fading into blurred colors and heat waves. It simmers into “Figure It Out,” where all that’s left is self-contemplation as the sun bleeds out, and we’re left alone with ourselves in the dark. “Stay Wild” evokes a montage of coming across a mysterious cave, and curiosity leading you to explore the luminescence radiating from inside. Uncovering this mysterious light leads you to question your own radiance- are you taking care of the light inside you, or have you let it dwindle to the point it feels nonexistent? A one-person dance session in the cave ensues, and it’s rejuvenating for your spirit.

The night continues, and cool air comes by with “Got Your Message,” the crisp winds reminding you of certain memories with that person. You wake up in the morning, and the sun has come back. “Wantlove” evokes a strong beach-vibe, kicking sand up with your feet while thinking about someone that’s making you feel more tingly than the sand you accidentally got in your eyes. You don’t mind the slight irritation, because the love you’re feeling in that moment overtakes all your other senses. In “Talkie Walkie,” you wander to a spot where the air is sweet, and you’re as light and free as the clouds. Somehow, we’ve gotten ourselves adrift at sea in “Buoy,” staying afloat amidst forces we can’t control.

Shook Twins has truly cultivated their sound. They’ve gravitated towards more blues-influences in this installment, and honestly, I wouldn’t classify them as indie-folk anymore. Folk-pop, yes – very much so actually, but the “indie” description that naturally came due to their Portland origins doesn’t justly define their complexity. Or, perhaps the term “indie” has developed over the years, as has this band, to grow apart from each other.

This growth can be easily heard throughout all of Some Good Lives. They’ve let go of some of their more eccentric sounds, such as the chicken-clucking and beatboxing in “Rose” from the Window era, but they’re still implementing their signature arsenal. Their telephone microphone with a satisfying good amount of reverb is still as solid as ever, and the band as a whole has expanded their proficiencies in string instruments. An increase in chime-like, sprinkles of whimsicality are present as well. Laurie and Katelyn’s voices are sweet and alluring, melding naturally together like the colors in a sunset. They’ve got this intense, yet gentle sound along with admirable emotions and intent in their lyrics.

The band’s foremost inspirations for this album were “Some Good Lives” that have intersected and influenced their own. Specifically, male lives that have influenced them, such as grandfathers, partners, father figures, and close friends.

Scattered throughout, like artifacts meant to be excavated and preserved, are old recordings of Shook family past. The first, “Grandpa Piano,” is literally a recording of their grandfather on the piano, with short banter before the music starts. “Moonlight Sonata” is of the same vein, where Grandpa Shook (as we’ll call him for this narrative) gets encouraged to perform a Beethoven classic. The skill and admiration for music, undoubtedly, has been in the Shook Generation for decades. The last song, “Dog Beach,” is very out of left field, but a nice, charming way to end the album. The band sings along with a recording of a song written by and sung by their godfather.

Some Good Lives isn’t dwelling in the past, nor is it waiting for a future that seems to never start. It is honoring the people that have made the present what is and embracing what is “now.” All of us are alive, governing our own small yet infinitely multi-layered narratives that converge, diverge, or barely cross paths. When we die, those changes we made on other people don’t dissipate or collapse. They will continue to persist – just as how we open our eyes each day and connect with one another. All lives, finished or in-process, are distinct and compelling. We shouldn’t forget that, and I commend Shook Twins for bringing Some Good Lives into being as we begin to face 2019.

Shook Twins - Some Good Lives