Matthew Trautwein "Submarine Races" Review

The future of music is in good hands.

Just when I think the Atlanta music scene couldn’t produce a finer crop of young bands than the ones I’ve heard in recent years, along comes The Twotakes bursting fully formed from the brow of Zeus with a debut album that leaves me shaking my head wondering just how much better local Atlanta groups can possibly get. I’ve been aware of this band for about 24 hours, and I’m already sold. 
Regional faves New Mantra blew us all away with their debut last year, and two of their members turn up here, raising the bar yet again (you’re your own worst enemy, guys; you’re going to have trouble topping this one). But front and center is Giovanni Marcello Turra, a blazing new talent who’s going to give everybody a run for their money.
Turra (guitar, vocals) and Josh Riccio (drums) comprise the nucleus of the group, with Beau Anderson (guitar) and Chase Brown (bass) from NM rounding out the line up. It’s hard for me to tell this early just who’s responsible for what in the group, but an interview with Turra from the SCAD Connector paints the picture of a very driven and realistic group of players, and as with New Mantra, what impresses me the most is the <depth> on display: complete surety of the playing, songs that satisfy on every level, and a singer with range both of notes and emotion. 
Straight out of the box, these guys show no signs of still having to learn their craft. Everything comes across as fully conceived, with a confidence of writing and performance that elevates every single track. And these guys are only about 20? It sounds like they’ve already been in <20> different bands… Michael MacWilliams’ production is first rate, the music sounding both current and classic at the same time, capturing an amazing collection of performances with absolute clarity. 
CDBaby describes Submarine Races as “a mix of blues/funk with alternative rock with an original touch”. What I hear reminds me of a lot of music that was prevalent in the late 80’s (a lot of it underground; anybody remember a band in the Chili Peppers’ orbit called What is This?), sort of filling the period between the explosions of Guns and Roses and Nirvana. The Twotakes cite the Peppers as a primary influence, but the material on Submarine Races defies that comparison; there’s a lot more going on here. 
The album opens with a powerful blast of drums, but then launches into a driving guitar figure that sets the tone for most of the record. There are tons of clean guitars everywhere, but the power shows up when it needs to. If Anderson’s responsible for most of the solos, he’s showing remarkable taste and restraint without underplaying. There are lots of creamy tones, some cool atmospheric stuff, and even some subtle guitar harmonies here and there. But rhythm guitar is the order of the day, and boy, this stuff is tight, tight, tight.
And you can say that about every instrument, even the vocals. Everything is just so rhythmic; it’s still rock and roll, but you can dance to the whole record. 
Turra describes Riccio as a jazz drummer, and he certainly has a ton of chops. What I like about his playing is that he gets his licks in while still allowing room for everything else. There’s no shortage of fills and embellishments, but everything stays right in the pocket. And, he knows when and how to lay out. In many of these songs, he’ll just drop out for half a verse, making a spectacular reentrance when he comes back in. This understanding of space, the use of silence in the arrangements, is evident in virtually all of the songs, Chase Brown weaving the bass in and out of the drum lines, and then… Fuzz bass on “Don’t Wait” and “Maybe?” Lots of surprises on this album…
And then there’s the singing… Turra’s ability at the microphone is astounding. Some singers impress simply on the strength of the sound of their voice or the fact that they can naturally hit a wide range of pitches. Turra doesn’t ever seem to need to show off. Yes, he’s got tons of high notes, a great scream, a great falsetto, but mostly my ear just hears him embody the songs. The sounds that come out are the ones that are necessary to express what he’s singing about; he just sounds so comfortable, like he’s simply having a conversation with the listener. Sometimes he’s totally impassioned, and other times he’s just laying it out there, whatever the song needs, but no more that. Just like all the best singers you could possibly name.
And I am once more humbled by the mastery of songcraft evident in these tunes. The chord progressions all make sense without being predictable, the melodies seem to dictate the chords (and not the other way around, a common tendency in guitar bands), and the lyrics all seems to match the rhythm of the tunes, all the syllables lining up with all the right beats. There’s a terrific sense of symmetry to these songs; everything seems to sit just right.
Hard for me to pick a favorite… Openers “Undercover” and “Danger Waver” establish the basic vibe of the album, but “Maybe” and “Lollipops” roll and surge with slower tempos that grow and grow, “Lollipops” reminding me a bit of the best moments Coldplay ever had. And the record ends with a laidback acoustic ballad in “Times Like These.” Shoot, just listen to the whole thing. A lot.

The future of music is in good hands…