Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel first met when they were five years old, and Two Gallants officially began in 2002, when they were 21. Both singers and multi-instrumentalists, Stephens usually handles lead vocals and Vogel often sits behind the kit. With a name honoring a story in James Joyce’s Dubliners, the two released their debut LP, The Throes, in 2004. Back then, the San Francisco-based duo played much more acoustic songs, channeling folksier, harmonic-accentuated roots, but each subsequent record diversified Two Gallants’ sound even more. So while the duo’s personnel and instrumental aesthetic remains unchanged after 13 years, Two Gallants’ fifth record, We Are Undone, continues to push that sonic evolution.
We Are Undone marks Two Gallants’ most versatile and aggressive LP to date. While 2012’s The Bloom and the Blight, released after a five-year hiatus, closed with the edgier, electric “Dyin’ Crapshooter Blues,” that album couldn’t even foreshadow where the band would take We Are Undone. Two Gallants returns with the screaming, almost thrashing title track to open the new album. Chunky, distorted riffs rail against the rigid snare hits in “Fools Like Us,” as Stephens laments, “Try to pretend it’s not all gone / fools like us just don’t belong.” But the hard electric blues showcase some of Two Gallants’ best songwriting, as “Some Trouble” evokes the slow grind of other modern blues-rock duos like early Black Keys or White Stripes, but with the classic natural imagery of all of their predecessors. Side B of We Are Undone calms down with a few bewildered ballads, but ultimately, Two Gallants’ return marks the most polished release of their long and diverse 13-year career.