As we’re now well into the final year of a decade in which the music industry has drastically transformed, the question of “how do you know if you’ve made it in music?” seems more difficult to answer than ever. We’ve had just over ten years of Spotify, and certainly the online streaming market seems to rule the roost for now, so getting your play count into the millions would appear a reliable litmus test. There are also the more old fashioned metrics such as the sold out home town show, or glowing endorsements from the national and international press.
All Tvvins have all of the above, but as well as these they possess an achievement that only a select few bands can boast of. Back in 2015, their single Darkest Ocean off their debut album ‘IIVV’ was featured on the yearly playlist of the world’s most popular video game. That’s right, the Dublin based duo cracked FIFA.
‘Just to Exist’ is their second full length album, and they pick up from exactly where they left off. On Hell of a Party, we’re dropped straight into a delicate combination of burning vocals and scuzzy basslines, with the drums being glued tightly to each bar. The song is aptly titled, as it is a number that will undoubtedly be at home whilst being spun socially, and the same is certainly true of this album as a whole. It is audacious synth pop with bags of commercial appeal, though there is also a deeper meaning there to be found for anyone willing to scratch beneath the surface.
This is perhaps most evident in the combined musings heard on No One Is Any Fun, a beautiful duet which features Sorcha Richardson. The song starts with the line “We were coming up at a party, trying to figure out where to go” sang in perfect, yet slightly harrowing, harmony. What better place to do a bit of soul searching than the sesh?
You would be hard pressed to find two musicians more qualified to speak of the search for oneself than Conor Adams and Lar Kaye though. On listening to this album it is clear that they have an precise idea of what they want their music to be, and you would imagine this clarity has only been achieved through a lot of self reflection. Each song has an incredibly full range throughout, with the frequently beefy sub being offset by either the vocals or synth hitting the top of the sonic spectrum.
There is also basically no room for indulgence as, despite containing ten songs, the album barely breaks the half hour mark. There is one or two ethereal cutaways, which are very impressive, but generally this is an album of beats and melodies from start to finish. The unshakeable consistency here is admirable, however, while ‘Just to Exist’ is satisfying to the ear, the band do skirt the boarder with predictability at times due to the lack of musical surprises on show.
This is not to deny the genuine quality there is on this album, which has no doubt been aided by the addition of James Vincent McMorrow to the band’s production team (they even go as far as to describe him as an effective third member).
Some of the hooks and pay-offs are immensely beautiful, none more so than at the conclusion of I Heard You. But there are times when it feels as if All Tvvins have remained overly loyal to the formula that helped forge their initial success. While there is no doubting these methods, and what they have helped the band achieve, it would have been nice if a few more musical risks had been taken in even one or two of the numbers.
It’s not as if they don’t have that ability in their locker, both Conor and Lar have roots in math rock being former members of The Cast of Cheers an Adebisi Shank respectively. Still though, there is no denying this is a very solid second effort from a band that will have a lot left in the tank.