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Twin Forks - Twin Forks Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 8.5
Production 8.5
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 8.5
Reviewer Tilt 8.5
Final Verdict: 85%
Member Ratings
Vocals 6.66
Musicianship 6.25
Lyrics 5.81
Production 6.19
Creativity 5.22
Lasting Value 6.09
Reviewer Tilt 5.56
Average: 60%

Twin Forks - Twin Forks

Reviewed by: Craig Manning (02/24/14)
Twin ForksTwin Forks
Record Label: Dine Alone Records
Release Date: February 25, 2014


Where’s that next Dashboard Confessional album? Ever since 2009’s Alter the Ending, the band’s Butch Walker-produced, pop-fest of a sixth record, things have been largely silent from the legendary emo-pop project that launched a million AIM away messages more than a decade ago. Not that frontman Chris Carrabba has exactly been taking it easy. In 2011, he was doing an anniversary album tour for his debut record, 2000’s The Swiss Army Romance, and last year, he reconvened his post-hardcore band, Further Seems Forever, for a comeback album called Penny Black. For the most part, however, fans have been left wondering what was next for Carrabba and whether Alter the Ending was, well…the ending for Dashboard Confessional.

Carrabba’s latest musical endeavor, an alt-folk band called Twin Forks, has done little to answer those questions, but is providing a nice enough distraction at the same time. Last fall, the group – Carrabba, the Narrative’s Suzie Zeldin, Bad Books’ Ben Homola, and producer Jonathan Clark - caught eyes and ears when they unleashed a self-titled debut EP for the Twin Forks project. For the most part, the five-song EP was upbeat, kick-drum driven folk, rendered in the same vein as recent records from bands like the Lumineers and the Head and the Heart. Carrabba’s gift for melody was still intact, filtered now through a lens of backcountry roots music and dusty folk textures. The crisp, slick production Walker had brought to Alter the Ending was gone, replaced by a rougher vocal tone for Carrabba, while Dashboard’s growing reliance on sensitive balladry was largely supplanted for raucous, clap-along folk music. It wasn’t a dynamic EP by any means, but it was an enjoyable one, and it had me excited to get my hands on the band’s eventual full-length work.

So imagine my surprise and satisfaction when, in early January, an email showed up in my inbox providing me with a full stream of the as-yet unreleased album - also a self-titled effort - almost a month and a half in advance. Twin Forks the album compares favorably to Twin Forks the EP in every way. Despite the fact that we’ve already heard half of these songs before, Twin Forks manages to provide a completely fresh experience. Where the EP focused largely on the upbeat side of the band – or rather, the side that the band wished to display to live audiences – the LP provides a new sense of pacing, atmosphere, and versatility thanks to a set of some of the finest ballads Carrabba has ever written. Carrabba’s downtempo numbers have been moving in a folky direction for a while, from the stunning title track of 2006’s viciously underrated Dusk and Summer to the last three or four songs from Alter the Ending. Given the opportunity to embrace that style fully, Carrabba unleashes a flurry of heartfelt and earnest songs here, all awash in mandolin, acoustic guitar, and stomp-clap rhythms. From the ballads to the barnstormers, it’s a trip worth taking.

The songs that Twin Forks included on the EP – “Back to You,” “Something We Just Know,” “Cross My Mind,” “Can’t Be Broken,” and “Scraping up the Pieces” – sound even better now than they did last fall. Freed from their truncated and single-minded EP, these songs get a new lease on life. Despite the fact that the recordings haven’t changed a bit from what we’ve already heard, it’s tough to listen to a song like “Can’t Be Broken” – repurposed here as a stirring album opener – and not feel like it’s reached a higher place. Similarly, the kick-stomping “Back to You” – the song that opened the EP – feels somehow even more vibrant here as it flows into the set’s first ballad, “Kiss Me Darling.” While Carrabba’s crystalline, boyish tenor voice is as a lovely as always on the latter, it’s Zeldin who steals the show, using her lone solo verse on the album to melt hearts and make you fall in love with her. A late recruit to the band, Zeldin provides glowing vocal harmonies throughout Twin Forks, but her verse on “Kiss Me Darling” gives us reason to hope that there will be another Twin Forks record – if only to give this talented girl a chance to take the lead on a song or two.

Not that Carrabba’s strong guiding hand can ever be doubted. On the contrary, the legendary scene frontman delivers some of his best vocal performances here, from the earnest pop balladry of “Plans” – about as close as this album gets to “Stolen” – to the dusky summer night chill-out of “Reasoned and Roughened” (“It’s 90 degrees and it ain’t even May,” Carrabba sings on the verse; we should all be so lucky). From top to bottom Twin Forks never lulls or disappoints. It lacks the stratospheric high points that nearly every Dashboard album had (“Screaming Infidelities” from Swiss Army Romance, “The Brilliant Dance” from The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, the bookends from A Mark, A Mission…, “So Long, So Long” from Dusk and Summer, and “Until Morning” from Alter the Ending) but it makes up for it by being the most consistently solid album that Carrabba has ever been a part of. From the energetic, handclap folk tracks that ended up on the EP to more restrained album cuts like “Danger” and “Done is Done,” Twin Forks lacks a single weak point.

Closing track “Who’s Looking Out” provides a poetic lullaby to a lovely album, and it’s a truly perfect way to conclude the first chapter of Twin Forks. Singing over a gentle acoustic strum, Carrabba delivers one lilting lyric (“I’m a bum working on my last can, wonderin’ where my life ran/Lost it in the wind and didn’t know”) after another (“I’m a shoe hanging on a phone wire, screw sticking in an old tire/I’m something someone lost along the way”). These striking pieces of imagery make us think about all of the debris left broken, decrepit, and forgotten in our path as we move forward, and just as Carrabba was once singing all about broken hearts and best deceptions, he’s now thinking about life from the perspective of someone who is older, wiser, and more in tune with the way time washes things away. It’s a lingering end to the album, recalling similarly sun-dusted odes from his past (“Dusk and Summer,” my personal favorite Carrabba song, comes instantly to mind), but clearly pointing its compass toward a very different destination. With almost five years now separating us from the last Dashboard album, there’s no indication as to what that band’s future holds. However, with albums as comfortable and likable as Twin Forks, there’s simply no reason to mourn Carrabba’s decision to give this new band his full focus for the time being.

8.5/10

Note: Check out my interview with Chris about the Twin Forks project right here.

Additional InformationTwin Forks Is...
Chris Carrabba: vocals, acoustic guitar
Suzie Zeldin: vocals, mandolin
Ben Homola: drums
Jonathan Clark: bass

Track Listing:
01. "Can't Be Broken"
02. "Cross My Mind"
03. "Back To You"
04. "Kiss Me Darling"
05. "Scraping Up the Pieces"
06. "Something We Just Know"
07. "Danger"
08. "Reasoned and Roughened"
09. "Plans"
10. "Done"
11. "Come On"
12. "Who's Looking Out"

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Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 30
06:01 AM on 02/25/14
#2
boere123
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I was really excited for this album. I was seriously impressed with their EP. For me this album is really disappointing. The new songs are all bland and boring with the same lyrics being repeated, unlike the ones on the EP which had really strong and foot-tapping inducing choruses. A lot of bands struggle to live up to the hype they caused with their EPs and this LP is another example of that in my opinion.
07:01 AM on 02/25/14
#3
DVNO
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Looking forward to hearing this. The were great when they opened for City and Colour last year.
07:02 AM on 02/25/14
#4
Jlee@thedisco
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I was really excited for this album. I was seriously impressed with their EP. For me this album is really disappointing. The new songs are all bland and boring with the same lyrics being repeated, unlike the ones on the EP which had really strong and foot-tapping inducing choruses. A lot of bands struggle to live up to the hype they caused with their EPs and this LP is another example of that in my opinion.
I'm a massive Chris Carrabba fan, but I kind of agree. My actual disappointment was that I didn't realize basically all the songs on the EP would be on here after I had been listening to them so long. I kind of wish there were more slower songs and stuff. I wish Cold Comfort was on it!
07:09 AM on 02/25/14
#5
Jlee@thedisco
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forgot to mention that this review was really good. And i completely agree with Dusk and Summer being a super underrated DC record. Why do you think that is Chris?
07:11 AM on 02/25/14
#6
derekrvr
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I'm pumped to listen to this. Great review, man -- I'll work out some time to listen tonight.
07:31 AM on 02/25/14
#7
Ryan Gardner
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Great review per usual.

Really enjoy this record.
07:47 AM on 02/25/14
#8
Craig Manning
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I'm a massive Chris Carrabba fan, but I kind of agree. My actual disappointment was that I didn't realize basically all the songs on the EP would be on here after I had been listening to them so long. I kind of wish there were more slower songs and stuff. I wish Cold Comfort was on it!

You see, that didn't bother me much. Maybe because I didn't listened to the EP all that much? I'm not sure.

forgot to mention that this review was really good. And i completely agree with Dusk and Summer being a super underrated DC record. Why do you think that is Chris?

I think Dusk and Summer was just too far in the pop direction for most people to handle. It's extremely glossy and "produced," and most of the people who had been fans of the band wanted him to go acoustic instead of further in the electric vein. I personally think it's a way better record that A Mark, A Mission, and would probably put it alongside Alter the Ending as my favorite things Carrabba has done. But I understand why people don't generally feel that way. That said, I don't see how anyone could be a fan of Dashboard and not like the title track.

I'm pumped to listen to this. Great review, man -- I'll work out some time to listen tonight.

Let me know what you think.

Great review per usual.

Really enjoy this record.

Thanks!
07:57 AM on 02/25/14
#9
Jlee@thedisco
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Sorry on mobile and couldn't reply to your post. I'm kinda surprised to hear someone say alter the ending might be their favorite! Not that there's anything wrong with that but for me I think that record became too much of a pop record for me like you talked about with dusk and summer which is probably up there for me on favorite records. Also no one talks about shade of poison trees... Ever. Chris hardly even plays anything from it except maybe where there's gold. Do you have any insight onto why that might be? There are some super great songs. I saw him play widows peak with the Louisville symphony years ago and it was one of the best things I've ever seen.
07:59 AM on 02/25/14
bradsonemanband
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still so crazy to me that Suzie got involved in this project! stoked for her
08:04 AM on 02/25/14
Craig Manning
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Sorry on mobile and couldn't reply to your post. I'm kinda surprised to hear someone say alter the ending might be their favorite! Not that there's anything wrong with that but for me I think that record became too much of a pop record for me like you talked about with dusk and summer which is probably up there for me on favorite records. Also no one talks about shade of poison trees... Ever. Chris hardly even plays anything from it except maybe where there's gold. Do you have any insight onto why that might be? There are some super great songs. I saw him play widows peak with the Louisville symphony years ago and it was one of the best things I've ever seen.

I like the early acoustic stuff too, but think the electric records are more dynamic. I kind of get bored during Places and Swiss Army when my favorite tracks aren't playing, which never happens during Alter the Ending or Dusk. I like A Mark, A Mission too, but I think that album has some consistency issues. I genuinely dislike most of Poison Trees, so I can't help you there. I think that record was an example of Chris trying to make a record "so fans could have one" rather than following his own passion. It just doesn't sound like his heart is in it for most of those songs. The title track, "Widows Peak," and a few others are exceptions, but there's a reason I didn't mention that record in this review.
08:08 AM on 02/25/14
Jlee@thedisco
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I definitely see where you're coming from. It's not one of my favorites it just literally never comes up ever which I thought was interesting. I wonder if Chris carrabba feels the same way about it.

Cheers man
08:16 AM on 02/25/14
Ryan Gardner
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I still listen to the acoustic Alter the Ending often. "Hell on the Throat" acoustic is one of my favorite Dashboard songs. I can't remember the last time I listened to the electric version of that album though.
08:19 AM on 02/25/14
Craig Manning
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I definitely see where you're coming from. It's not one of my favorites it just literally never comes up ever which I thought was interesting. I wonder if Chris carrabba feels the same way about it.

Cheers man

Haha, I should have asked him. I just never think of that album because I don't like it.

I still listen to the acoustic Alter the Ending often. "Hell on the Throat" acoustic is one of my favorite Dashboard songs. I can't remember the last time I listened to the electric version of that album though.

I personally think the electric version is far, far superior. Those songs sound so much limper in acoustic form. They were meant to be bombastic and muscular pop rock songs.
08:32 AM on 02/25/14
Ryan Gardner
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I personally think the electric version is far, far superior. Those songs sound so much limper in acoustic form. They were meant to be bombastic and muscular pop rock songs.
Yeah, I just prefer any acoustic DC to electric
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