It has been suggested with the usual futile navel gazing that guitar music is going to make a big comeback in 2013. And as the all-female band Haim won BBC’s Sound of 2013, it is also being suggested that guitar music by women will be the thing for 2013. Whoever is making these empty predictions probably doesn’t have Talk Normal in mind, despite the band being composed of two women, one of whom plays guitar.
During the three years that passed between Talk Normal's galvanizing debut Sugarland and Sunshine, Sarah Register and Andrya Ambro developed an approach that wasn't exactly softer than their previous music, but was subtler and more layered. It would have been difficult for them to make an album that was more sonically uncompromising than their debut: Sugarland's mix of fierce guitar experimentation and expressive drumming, topped with alternately deadpan and imploring vocals, was bracing to say the least. While Sunshine adds more melody into this framework, Talk Normal do so subtly and thoughtfully, imbuing it into each part of their playing and singing rather than just trying to graft something more tuneful onto their stark dynamics.
There's a jolt at the start of Sugarland, the 2009 debut full-length by Brooklyn duo Talk Normal. Its boldly titled opener, "Hot Song", begins with a hard blast of test-tone drone, then adds a pounding metal-can beat. This attention-getting salvo feels like a statement of purpose, and indeed what follows is just as brash and urgent-- a muscular, locked-in brand of noise-rock that guitarist/bassist Sarah Register and drummer Andrya Ambro quickly turned into a signature.
For the un-weary listener, Talk Normal may sound like a world unto themselves, albeit a rather small one, even in the supposedly anything-goes yet simultaneously conformist Brooklyn indie music scene. Just take a moment and you’ll realize there are few readily visible acts that are looking to no-wave New York or its many and varied stylistic adherents as a source of inspiration. And yet this observation may be trivial when considering why, on their second full-length effort Sunshine, guitarist Sarah Register and drummer Andrya Ambro are heard just keeping at it, with a minimum of alteration — as if there were any needed — from their debut Sugarland.
It's not surprising that Talk Normal, esteemed purveyors of low-rent post-punk, have previously released a split seven-inch with Thurston Moore. But we shouldn't carry the subsequent weight of expectation into their sophomore LP. However, Sunshine is a thing of rusting rawness that hits as hard as the Sonic Youth man at his melody violating bluntest.
Music often has a way of finding that sweet spot – songs can circle an emotional wound and, with a vocal cry here or an instrumental break there, really make it sting. In a way, this is what Brooklyn noise-rock duo Talk Normal do throughout their second album, Sunshine. In both production and songwriting, the pair expertly pinpoint the worst of our discomfort and pain.
The lurching noise-pop of Brooklyn’s Talk Normal depends on juxtaposition. As soon as one particular set of motorized rhythms and a repeated guitar phrase feels comfortable, they jump tracks, grabbing onto the next weirdness on the horizon. One song will scream ahead on the classic no wave train, but once you’re comfortable to look out the window, flares of tribal tUnE-yArDs rhythm and measured vocals rush headlong back at you.
It sucks that I can’t call this one of the best albums of 2013. Not because it’s too early (it’s never too early). Not because it’s not as good as I want it to be – listening to Sunshine is like being thrown down a flight of stairs, only to be pulled back up with your head rattling against every step; woozy, delirious and glad to be alive.
For Brooklyn rock duo Talk Normal, noise is the name of the game. Their new LP, Sunshine, expands on the fuzz, creating a more visceral, gritty feel. Guitarist/vocalist Sarah Register and drummer/vocalist Andrya Ambro create a blown-out sound that packs a punch.The album kicks off with a drum roll backed by a taut guitar line on “Lone General,” establishing the sense of urgency that spans Sunshine.
It’s not really clear if Talk Normal’s name is a reference to the infamously closed-minded request, or to Laurie Anderson’s greatest hits collection, but for all intents and purposes let’s say both. The music is complex, but not in a Phillip Glass orchestral kind of way. Instead, they use familiar tools and pull sounds from contact microphones, unorthodox guitar work, mysterious pedals, and a standing drum kit to avoid any predictable musical patterns you might have heard in the last 40 years of listening.