Review Summary: Chasing the summer dawn with the night behind us.
It seems I was never awake to begin with.
The night I wrote about Two People’s first album while an intense red neon bathed my room was only the beginning of a dream that has trapped me for almost two years. Those stung with Phoebe Lou’s voice will know what I’m talking about. It was only January of 2019, First Body
had just been released, and I had only been trying to snap out of the album’s embrace for months when a new single called “Dream Steppin’” dropped out of nowhere, sinking me even deeper in the dark dream-world that the couple from Melbourne had created.
“Dream Steppin’” felt a little different though. No spellbinding neon, no red light while cruising the city’s empty streets well past the midnight hour. Instead, the duo had opted for an afterparty-at-dawn feel that blended their brand of ambient heavy pop with a more confident, more fleshed out approach. It seemed the long night of First Body
had finally found its dawn, but the dream didn’t end there. There was so much more to come.
Turns out, Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough had started writing the follow-up to their fantastic debut as soon as it was released. The couple switched off the red light that became their aesthetic in First Body
, packed their live set and drove up to a cabin in the mountains. Working on one different song every day during a full week saw them returning to town with their second album almost ready to be recorded. Efficiency personified.
Simon Lam, from Melbourne’s electronic group I'lls, was brought to work in the aptly titled Second Body
, a decision that has only served to expand and enrich the wonderful sound that Two People had already crafted with their debut. In Second Body
, this sound is still present, but the ambient pop and deep house with trip hop leanings that exuded from First Body
has taken a more defined shape, with the band touching on synth wave and dream pop with an immediacy that feels like a piercing arrow through the heart.
Unsurprisingly, “Dream Steppin’” opens the album and the energy is completely different. A solid beat, impossible not to bop to, and Phoebe Lou’s voice half whispering, half moaning the mantra “keep dreaming, keep steppin’”, as if she wanted you to slide straight from their debut and phase into this second effort seamlessly. “Loud” is one of the first surprises, while being a perfect fit on their debut, it also carries a slight soul vibe mixed with elements of 80s pop that show how much detail Joey Clough and Simon Lam has put in creating the perfect vehicle for Phoebe’s entrancing singing.
In early conversations about this new album, someone mentioned Second Body
being more kinetic
, and I think it’s the perfect way to describe how Two People has designed this second album. A song like “Someone to Serve” for example, not only is insanely catchy, it also shows how confidently the duo has dried out some of the ethereal atmosphere of their debut in favor of a more tangible sound that relies more on beats and bops and less on layers of synths and vocal dubs.
But don’t get me wrong, Second Body
still feels like that sort of dream you don’t want to wake up from. “Been a Little While” crawls under the sheets and gets under your skin before you realize what’s going on, and the one to blame is Phoebe Lou. Like a good friend told me not long ago: “her voice is opium”. Lou’s melancholic tone wavers between urgency and sleep talking, belting out beautifully when the song requires it and letting the words slip down her lips almost unaware when the tension loosens up. Case on point: “Breaking the Silence”.
“A Taste” is a synth wave wonder, a song that feels almost nostalgic of the duo’s debut when it invites thoughts of night driving while chasing the summer breeze, and it’s by far my personal favorite of Second Body
. The last three tracks may leave a shallow impression compared to the rest of the album at first, but “The Line” and specially the terrific closer that is “Under the Hood” are guaranteed to carve their mark in you as you keep spinning around the edges of Second Body
for as long as Lou and co. deem it appropriate.
Personally, and with the recent memory of First Body
being my AOTY just last year, I am deeply humbled and happy to see how Two People’s debut wasn’t a bluff, that Joey Clough and Phoebe Lou really have an impressive chemistry that allows them to write some of the best pop music I have heard in the last ten years. The prospect of their next output being able to match two amazing records is not surrounded by uncertainty and hope anymore, now, I just know it will.