In art, in politics, and in everything in between on this planet, the glue that holds it all together is conviction. If you say outlandish things but are unwavering in your conviction – people will follow you. And that if that glue is missing in music, the songs will fall apart and sound painfully amateur. There’s a fine line between groundbreaking, inventive music and music that you will simply forget before it’s even finished playing.
bar italia happen to have a copious amount of conviction. The latest album from the London trio, ‘The Twits’ is a shiny steel train leaving the station – if you don’t hop on now, it’s leaving with or without you. The second album from the group released in 2023, ‘The Twits’ totals 13 songs, showcasing not only the deep well of creative ability but their sheer conviction in the quality of the music they release.
There are a profoundly plentiful amount of ideas bouncing around on ‘The Twits’, from the uptempo ‘straight-ahead’ rock songs to eerie-country to the slanted and driving post-punk rhythms powering songs like ‘world’s greatest emoter’. Few songs end the way they start, and the compositions flow like water, traveling effortlessly wherever it wishes. The trio of Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi, and Sam Fenton all sing, but it never feels like each has a microphone; rather, they all step up to one collective mic when the time is right. This sense of shared expression adds a unique, organic taste to the record.
Tucked in between songs are the unsettling vibes of tracks like ‘que surprise’, with its unusual bass and guitar riffs that build irresistible energy, like a dark alley beckoning a hint of danger, but you just cannot resist. These occasionally dark side streets elevate the rest of the offerings, making them seem fresh and direct after a dose of exploration.
Lyrically, ‘The Twits’ is not exactly ‘light.’ Scattered across the album are themes of relationship friction, regret, and frustration in others’ ignorance. Lyrics like “you’re too self-indulgent to know this song is for you” and “you have a hold on me, I swear, then you keep saying that ‘I don’t care’ – if only you could see me now” highlight experiences in their lives that are pushing their need for creating music. The lyrics are a wonderful glaze on an already decadent cake, never too heavy-handed but sticking with you as you hum them in the shower.
The back third of the album is surprisingly strong, with the beautiful ‘sounds like you had to be there’ that is as jarringly gorgeous (and optimistic) as it is sparse, allowing the diverse vocal deliveries to stand alone as the stars they should be. The odd choice of having the song fade out abruptly creates the feeling of an unfinished thought that luckily gets saved by the following gem, ‘Jelsy’ – a hypnotic vocal game of catch that is held together by a wonderful guitar melody.
bar italia have taken several promising steps on its journey from Dean Blunt’s World Music to the reliable powerhouse of Matador. Their previous release, ‘Tracey Denim’, leaned on shorter, more direct songs, whereas now tracks are expansive and wide-ranging. Not every song is as enjoyable as it is intriguing, with moments of too many detours and not enough destinations. However, while ‘The Twits’ feels imperfect, intentionally so, it also feels like the final cliffhanger before a chapter ends in a thrilling novel. You have to keep reading. The group is building a snowball down the hill towards the limelight and away from the mysterious musical ghost with little digital footprint. Like the train leaving the station, bar italia’s momentum feels unstoppable at this point.
Words: Sam Eeckhout