Secret Twins are an Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti based duo consisting of Tim Thomas on drums and Dina Bankole on vocals, Flying V guitar and occasional loop pedal. To indie-pop fans living outside of Michigan, Dina is probably best known for her guest vocal contributions to the God Help The Girl project put together by members of Belle & Sebastian. She’s also in a new band called Swimsuit, along with Michigan scene veteran Fred Thomas, and ex-Tyvek member Shelley Salant. Fred Thomas makes a few guest appearances playing organ and fuzz/reverb guitar, but the undisputed star of the show is Dina and her incredible voice.
The band’s sound has been labeled “folk-punk,” but I don’t really think that tag fits at all. The songs that most immediately bring “punk” to mind are the first two on side B, “Love Like Blood” and “Poor Replacements,” mostly because they’re the fastest and most intense songs on the album. The two slow songs, “Dead House” and “Places,” stretch out to five minutes and beyond, the former being the haziest and the latter being more melancholy. Beyond those, the songs are generally upbeat, catchy indie-pop tunes, with tight musicianship guided by Dina’s elastic vocals. “Meet Again,” the song in which Fred Thomas contributes organ, has a bit of a peppy ’60s pop flair similar to what Saturday Looks Good To Me were excellent at, but with a much different vocal style. “Dead Heart” shows off the band’s versatile dynamic range a bit, beginning with a brief, quiet guitar and vocal intro, bursting into a fast drum beat, and slowing down/speeding up the tempo a few times, before a final chaotic release at the end.
The first and last songs on the album both make use of Dina’s loop pedal. Opener “Native” builds up a few layers of her wordless vocals, before Tim’s drums kick in and Dina duets with her looped vocals. Closer “Get Out Of This City” begins not with her voice, but with her guitar, building up a few variations on a melody as well as a bassline, followed by a choir of ecstatic Dinas. Drums and percussion kick in, and Dina sings heartfelt, hopeful lyrics about moving on: “It’s the right time to get out of this city, abandon this town, nowhere to be found.” And with that, the album ends on an incredibly positive note.
The album does a flawless job of capturing their live performance, which shouldn’t be hard considering it’s just a guitar/drums duo. But Secret Twins are just one of those bands where as soon as I saw them live for the first time, something just clicked and I knew I was witnessing something special. I’m pretty much totally in love with this band’s music now, and this album is every bit as great as I was expecting.