Although there has never been any denying their talents, Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel, the two behind Two Gallants, had until this point not been able to put everything together in a single album. Maybe it was the fussy James Joyce allusion in their band name or the ill-conceived cover of “Long Summer Day” on last year’s What the Toll Tells. Or perhaps the band just wasn’t at the right place in its career to make the album that would serve as its musical statement. With Two Gallants, Stephens and Vogel put away “the skinny-indie-white-boy blues” and deliver a blistering set of atmospheric, confessional songs that indicate why they gave Two Gallants its eponymous name. This is what the band is all about.
Two Gallants, the band’s second for Saddle Creek and third overall, shows significant artistic growth. Each song showcases an attention to detail and the finer points of musicianship that has been only sparsely present on previous recordings. Stephens’s guitar sounds crisp and intermeshes perfectly with Vogel’s drumming. Each adds his distinctive voices to the instrumental mix to create sound environments that are surprisingly complete even for a studio recording.
Thematically, Stephens and Vogel have eschewed much of the traditional blues in favor of a lo-fi confessional rock that is reminiscent of older Sebadoh. Tunes such as “Fly Low Carrion Crow” and “Miss Meri” use the Gallants’ narrative blues sound, but “My Baby’s Gone,” “The Deader,” and “Trembling of the Rose” show the band successfully exploring more personal songwriting territory. These songs describe broken relationships in a way that is raw and angry enough to have come from a very personal place. That perhaps makes Two Gallants at times hard to listen to, but it’s also what makes it the perfect statement for the band.