Twen might as well have been launched from a cannon. Since forming in 2017, the Nashville-via-Boston band has scarcely stopped moving. Singer Jane Fitzsimmons and guitarist Ian Jones have spent so much time on the road (with a pair of oft-changing backing musicians) that they’ve converted their tour van into a tiny house as they motor from one performance to the next, landing gigs on the strength of a five-track live EP recorded at their first-ever show. Those five songs, plus five more they wrote on tour between shows, comprise their first LP, Awestruck. Fittingly, the first song on the album also happens to be the first song that singer Jane Fitzsimmons and guitarist Ian Jones ever wrote together.
Their music captures that sense of perpetual motion on songs with restless energy. Sometimes that means uptempo tunes, but not always: Fitzsimmons and Jones rove freely through various permutations of indie rock, and though the lineup is standard—voice, guitar, bass and drums—Twen aren’t beholden to any one sound. In fact, they try on a bunch of musical guises on Awestruck, which shows a penchant for oblique lyrics that Fitzsimmons makes intentionally hard to discern, and effects-treated guitars. It’s a viscous flange sound on the title track, backed with big, clattering drums as Fitzsimmons bends her flexible voice around the musical arrangement. The bumpety rhythm gives way to a slowed-down interlude halfway through the song for a woozy, narcotic effect.
“Damsel” opens with an instantly catchy chiming power-pop guitar lick that repeats behind Fitzsimmons’ voice, which soars behind a curtain of reverb. Elsewhere, the gluey guitars and brassy vocals on “Honey Smacks” borrow from ’90s alt-rock in an obvious, but not self-conscious, way. Later, “Holy River” isn’t a religious song, but it has the feel of a hymn. Twen wrote the song upon first arriving in Nashville, where Fitzsimmons and Jones were struck by the abundance of natural beauty around them. Her voice floats above a bed of dreamy guitars, and she sounds awestruck and grateful.
Though the guitar effects are distinctive at first, Jones’ tone starts to sound too much the same after a while, in part because he doesn’t vary it all that much. It’s also a little dated: he’s relying on guitar sounds that were most prominent among virtuosic shreddy acts in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and while indie-rock is nothing if not pastiche, flange and chorus effects haven’t aged particularly well.
Twen are new enough that the band is still a work in progress, and maybe the guitar sounds will evolve as their songwriting develops. Awestruck shows that the raw material is there, it just needs a little more shaping.