REVIEW: twig twig - Normal Feelings

Kelly Kirwan

twig twig has a taste for warbled electro-pop. His beats twist and bend around high, lullaby vocals that are spattered with the occasional quirky cameo: a flurry of wind chimes, loose change scattered across the floorboards. His freshly-minted EP, Normal Feelings, is filled to the brim with these experimental synth arrangements, which makes sense considering the man behind the curtain—Zubin Hensler—and his stacked resume. To quickly sing his praises, Hensler has taken to stage and studio with outfits like Sylvan Esso, Half Waif, Son Lux, and My Brightest Diamond, while also rounding out the brass quartet The Westerlies and scoring the occasional film or documentary (screened on Univision, National Geographic, and others).

So, in a nutshell, we’re not dealing with a rookie. Rather, we’re dealing with Zubin Hensler unfiltered. The six tracks that comprise Normal Feelings were self-made, self-released, and are thus the ultimate form of self expression. And, if we’ve learned anything from our first listen, it’s that twig twig and his work are multi-layered. Going through the EP felt like walking through a carnival funhouse without the kitsch. It was immersive and distorted—a snapshot of Hensler’s inner thoughts, which were then contorted and exaggerated by his melodies. 

For instance, “Get It” is particularly taught with synth, metallic clanks (an album motif), and fuzzy fringes. It sits in relative contrast to “Fade Away,” which is likely the most subdued track of the album, with Hensler’s soft, lilting vocals pressing, “Tell the truth / I don’t want to wait for you / Would you ever want to fade away / Would you notice if I fade away?” 

The song has a slow pace, steady clapping, and occasional punctuation of twangy electronic effects. It also carries this sense of melancholy that lingers on twig twig’s debut—like those fleeting moments of existential crisis we’ve all experienced (well, haven’t we?). To Line of Best Fit, Hensler explained the impetus for “Fade Away,” citing long conversations where your mind wanders and “you realize, all of a sudden, that you're a tiny insect, slowly drowning in a swimming pool on a sunny day."

A more optimistic form of uncertainty on the album comes in the form of “Tryn Out.” “I can’t find a way to be / I don’t know what’s the matter with me / Trying to be somebody you like,” Hensler sings, but both his tone and backtrack feel sunny despite the angst. It’s essentially an anthem for dating—that minefield of giddy jitters, dull connection, and, from time to time, disappointment. 

Normal Feelings is nothing if not intimate. In fact, Hensler admits that his new EP is a essentially a time capsule, revealing who he was at the time of its creation. It’s certainly complicated to revisit the past and note how you've changed, but as twig twig would say, “it’s fun because it means you’re never done.” 

Sounds like a promise of more things to come, and we’ll be waiting.