TWO MIXS – Separate Checks – Album Review
I made this comment when I was checking out a few tunes leading up to this official record by TWO MIXS in the past review: “…it seems like there’s an island influence, or at least a vacation-like atmosphere that runs through the spirit of these tunes.”
As it turned out…what I was hearing was actually based on real-life truth – I ended up chatting behind the scenes and learned that TWO MIXS had big plans when I was told: “I’m heading off to the Bahamas…I literally made this album for this trip so I can make mad music videos.”
And so there you have it…maybe I’m not so crazy after all.
Bottom line is, what I was hearing that first time around in experiencing what TWO MIXS was up to, was genuine laidback vibes that suggested the dude behind the music is in a good place right now. I mean, we know he’s in a good place, he’s in the Bahamas…but I mean like, headspace…he’s in a good place there too. Obviously making tunes with no pressure on his shoulders and the intention to have some real fun with it, along with getting a good mix of genuinely quirky but interesting ideas out there, TWO MIXS has an odd uniqueness that, as I mentioned in the previous review, will appeal to people for all sorts of strange reasons and has the potential to fit into some pretty cool places out there in the scene.
Alright…so…expecting a bit of bizarreness due to what I’d heard in the past, but also expecting a gold nugget within these ideas that I can latch onto, which is also something I learned in my past experience with TWO MIXS; and as “Fish Tacos And Advil” start the album, these assumptions are all pretty much bang-on right away. What I love, is the music & the writing – actually without question really, I think it’s really strong in that sense for both aspects…really inviting sound and the core of this idea is fantastic. There are solid ideas for the melody of the verse and I think the chorus definitely uses that method of simplifying the lyrics into a noteworthy hook that’s empowering & that people will remember. Where this track runs into its quirks are in the vocal department for sure…and the majority of that, from what I think I’m hearing, isn’t on the shoulders of the singer, but in the mix. Auto-tune can be our best friend or our worst enemy in the studio when it comes to vocalists…to use it to its maximum effect takes so much time to adjust every necessary dial in an effort to match tone, tempo, and cadence – it’s damn near impossible really, just ask Kanye. So at times, on “Fish Tacos And Advil,” it will enhance the sound – at others, that noticeable warble you’ll find in the mix as the auto-tuner searches and hops between notes can become distracting from what has the potential to be a really smooth, possibly single-worthy tune even. When you hear how inviting the opening of “Fish Tacos And Advil” is, you want to hang onto that feeling…and the facts are that the man can sing…using the auto-tuner at all might be a questionable move here…there’s a substantial chance that his own natural vocals would have suited this perfectly. As a result of this, “Fish Tacos And Advil” goes a bit off the rails at times in the adherence to its own melody – but again, if you listen from a songwriter’s standpoint, there are tons of great qualities in the ideas.
TWO MIXS is definitely a perplexing project. I have no doubt whatsoever that the man behind the music knows when everything is on & when he’s out there in left-field…I think it just comes down to whether or not he’s personally feeling the vibe and wants to keep a track preserved like a memory, or not. Because when you listen to something like “I’m Yours” – you’ll wonder how it’s even possible that TWO MIXS made both this song and “Fish Tacos And Advil” right beforehand – they’re entirely different in just about every way you can imagine. For real, short of the laidback signature sound you’ll find runs through all these tracks on some level, there’s a decided switch into what’s truly a really sweet Indie-Pop/Rock sound goin’ on. Musically, 100% enticing…love the way the main guitars keep it simple and the after-effects of having them bounce from the lefts to the rights was a great move – when you listen to it, you kind of have to marvel at just how easy it probably is for TWO MIXS to have constructed that one part of the song’s sound, but just how continually sparkling & warm it really is. The guitars get all kinds of clever here if you’re listening…could be two or even three-layers maybe…but they’re massive factors in the amount of stunning sound you’ll hear, as are the vocals of this song. With a bright & uplifting charm of their own, a solid melody line that’s got plenty of hooks, and full of sweet sentiment, “I’m Yours” is a fantastic love-song that comes off completely genuine & authentic. That’s a complete result of how this tune is played and sung…if you were to look at it line-by-line lyrically on paper, maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t love it…but when you hear how it’s performed, you kinda can’t help but get right into this tune and appreciate how innocent, humble, loving and sweet this moment becomes.
Even though it’s only been a short amount of time in between reviewing the Separate Checks EP, the new album here, and the vacation that TWO MIXS is currently on…unless I’m seriously nuts, noticeable improvements have been made to “Barcelona,” which was originally titled “Tequila Sunrise” back in the original review. Overall, this mix, both vocals and music, sounds much more vibrant and punchy this time around…all of the good parts that I was digging before are still completely intact, if not also improved. Now it kind of reminds me a bit of like…something Styrofoam would create almost if you think back to the early records…and of course, I dig that. Does it fully rise-up to the potential that exists in this tune…honestly, that’s a much, much harder question to answer. Like, when I hear the beginning of the second verse, I’m convinced that the vocals came out perfect and sit right where they should be in the mix…yet for some reason, I didn’t always feel the rest did still…that there’s still more searching & experimenting to be done to get the very best out of this tune. That being said, I think the improvements that have been made really do get “Barcelona” closer to where TWO MIXS would ultimately want to get this song & melody to be…I think the chorus has excellent hooks that come out sincere and the verses are massively catchy…there’s definitely a ton to love about this tune. Perhaps that’s the deal…maybe it’s one of those special cuts that has a certain magic that’s tough to unlock – if you’ve ever written a song yourself or been involved in the recording process, you know how that goes.
As much as TWO MIXS will likely keep you guessing or even scratching your head in wonder sometimes – again, notice that there’s always something completely redeeming to keep us listening. The auto-tuner that arguably hindered the first song on the album comes back for a triumphant victory on “La Jungla” – this is much more of an example of the effect being used as an advantage for sure. Vocal-melody & flow is great really…the way it interacts & works with the music is perfect here – and the music of “La Jungla?” Might just be one of my favorites by TWO MIXS so far…this project has a penchant for finding a real hook and riding it throughout a short song-length for the most part, but when things go right like this, believe me, you won’t be complaining and you certainly won’t be bored. “La Jungla” has a truly marvelous sound & texture to it, excellent ideas in the percussion and bass-led riff…vocals fit perfectly in the mix here, excellent tone in the singing both naturally & enhanced – everything on this tune stacks up into true audio-entertainment. Nearly on the edge of a straight-up tribal sound at times, “La Jungla” is the kind of music that becomes an experience so defined that you can see it in your mind, feel it in your bones, and practically reach out and touch it…definitely a highlight on this album and not a song you’d feel like you could naturally compare to anything else really…TWO MIXS found a really unique vibe here.
“Mojitos In Santa Clara” from the review before now appears as “Mojitos In The Dunes” here on the official record – I think we can all agree, wherever you’re having your mojito is the BEST place to have your mojito, wherever you and your mojito happen to be. Considering this particular mojito in question has already traveled from Santa Clara to the dunes, I figure that only proves this theory correct…TWO MIXS seems to be moving around with mojitos intact…I can only imagine there’s probably more than a few of’em goin’ down in the Bahamas where the man is right now. Here’s what I can tell you…I mean, what…wasn’t it just last week or the beginning of this one that we heard the original EP? However long it’s been – it’s been THAT long with the hooks of this song stuck in my head. If you have a read over the original review, I think you’ll see I hinted strongly at the potential for that to happen…there’s just something so strange, so relaxed, yet so oddly enticing about the vibes of “Mojitos In The Dunes” that I seem to wake up with this song stuck in my head at night and wake up with it again first thing in the morning. And as I’ve mentioned many times here at these pages, regardless of what anyone out there thinks of any given song that has this effect on ya, that always tells you there’s something actually there. As strange as a tune like “Mojitos In The Dunes” may appear at first, it’s inconspicuously addictive as well…you might not even realize it happening at the beginning on that initial listen through Separate Checks, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you spin this record even twice you’ll be in the same boat I am. Which is floating away in the water somewhere mentally with “Mojitos In The Dunes” on.
The last one that I knew from before was “Latina Screamahs” – and if my ears don’t deceive me, this one sounds like it’s gotten a slight punch-up from the last time around as well. To me it sounds like the rap has come up to the surface a bit more…that might be a new performance, but likely just a tune-up as to where they sat in the mix or additional clarity surrounding them…either way, from what I remember from earlier, unless I’m losing it and imagining all this, it all sounds like a step in the right direction here. “Latina Screamahs” is a solid cut in the TWO MIXS catalog…it was when I first heard it, it is still now – I think people will really dig the energy in the vocals of this track and the vibrant sounds threaded into this mix as definitely designed to catch your attention. TWO MIXS generates a couple layers of melody in the music that interact really well together here on this tune…hopefully the music will get some credit from the people out there listening – the performance on the mic is a noteworthy one from the lyrics to the sound, the energy is relentless, focused, & right into the moment…it’s a really catchy cut all-around.
Structurally, “Fancy Meeting You Here” is a huge highlight on Separate Checks. The way this cut is laid out is more than impressive…the choice in the sound selection is freakin’ remarkable…really kickass stuff happening on this tale about of the struggle of love & keeping a level-head about it all. Storyline-wise, whether it’s based on real experience, who knows…but if this is the truth being spit here, TWO MIXS has caught himself in a tricky situation on vacation…one where it’s probably best to just grab his whiskey and go for a walk, like he’ll tell ya in this song. Lyrically, it’s pretty rad really…and of course, these are just my theories about what I’m hearing – the facts are that it’s written with a ton of room to interpret what you’re hearing with your own theories as well. I’m a little tossed-up on whether or not I’m digging the flow of the verses or not…they’re lyrically sound for sure, I’m just not as sold on the way they move. What more than makes up for it is the incredible music you’ll find on this cut, which when it comes to that particular department, might have my vote as the number-one track on the record. Excellent use of a light funk-guitar, big beat with depth, and absolutely gripping electro that comes storming in to make a massive impact on the direction of this tune and turn a good song into a great one – the vocal samples threaded into the electro-vibes…perfection…there’s a ton to love about “Fancy Meeting You Here.”
Look. I’m not going to pretend I totally understand what’s happening in TWO MIXS…but there really is something unique starting here in this project…I don’t think Nostradamus could even predict where this music might go in the future to come. “Ship In A Bottle” is another completely cool and totally different track that’s unlike the rest yet again – the way the vocals & layers with the effects work together in the hooks of this song is 100% brilliant. Excellent music…which is certainly a reliable part of what TWO MIXS brings to the table and has throughout Separate Checks in multiple forms; the sound of “Ship In A Bottle” is blissfully colorful and incredibly uplifting…you add in the tinge of old-school Hip-Hop that’s brought to the bars of this track, and you’ve got the recipe for what’s really leading this cut to success. The main hooks of the chorus…I mean…personally, I find them completely addictive…whether or not everyone out there feels the same way I do, again, who knows? I would hope so – they’re freakin’ wild man…it’s a great combination of sounds that form an incredible vibe that completely stands-out. I’d probably argue that, even though it might not be the most straight-ahead idea built for the mainstream exactly, you might just say that the hooks you’ll find in the chorus of this tune are the strongest on the album. Obviously it wouldn’t be something you’d want in every song from TWO MIXS, but it speaks to the innovative creativity you’ll find in this project and the willingness to go with the moment and see where it takes the music. It’s led TWO MIXS down several strange, weird, and wonderful paths – & for what it’s worth, to me, I feel like I hear an artist that’s capable of just about anything behind the controls of this project. There are definitely some moments on Separate Checks that are more focused than others, a few quirks that show TWO MIXS has room to evolve and grow – but at the end of the day, you can’t help but listen to a record like this and recognize the fact that there are tons of unique, captivating, clever, and fresh ideas to be found here. TWO MIXS could go on to pretty much anything from here in the future as I mentioned in the last review when warming up for this full-album experience…I definitely still believe that, and I’m definitely still looking forward to hearing the results. I have a feeling this artist genuinely loves the journey and the process probably more than most…and maybe even more than the final finished tracks even! I think you can hear that enthusiasm radiate through these tunes by how decidedly different they really are from the rest of what’s out there – TWO MIXS is definitely having a lot of fun here on Separate Checks, but there’s undeniably something unique also happening underneath the surface here that points towards unlimited potential & real creativity.
Separate Checks comes out officially on April 1st – stay up to-date on all the details by visiting the TWO MIXS page at Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/two_mixs