A Two Gallants record is never an easy listen, at least in a personal sense: it takes a certain heaviness of heart to wrap one’s head around the complexities of the stories they weave. On their third full-length, the band has grown no less world-weary, and their lyrics remain haunted by the bitter business of interpersonal relationships. Through tongue-twisting tracks like “Reflections of the Marionette” and “The Hand that Held Me Down,” singer and guitarist Adam Stephens excels at voicing the thoughts we’re most apt to hide: “I don’t want to see you fall / I just want to see you fail,” he snarls on the former. His characters are always half-beaten, half-fighting.
What is most striking on Two Gallants is a certain return to form. Their previous record, What The Toll Tells was augmented by cello, trumpets, and trombone; the drum fills were long and complicated, as was much of the guitar work. On Two Gallants, there are no guest musicians, no drawn-out musical complexities; there’s a guitar, some drums, and an occasional harmonica, but what’s at center stage here are the vocals and the lyrics. Everything else is meant as a backdrop, like a theater production with only a chair as a prop. This record is all about the actors, and as such, it requires a certain level of audience attention.