Sometimes, doing less is harder than doing more. In quiet acts with one or two people, no one can hide; every sound, every word, every breath is exposed.
Twin Oaks thrives in this kind of exposure. A Los Angeles duo comprised of Aaron Domingo and Lauren Brown, they've released several albums worth of atmospheric folk and rock tinged with dream pop and shoegaze. On their latest EP, Living Rooms, the band adds another layer to their raw formula: they recorded the album live “in various open spaces using minimal equipment,” and the result is surprisingly precise and unsurprisingly beautiful.
Returning to their origins as a bedroom pop group, Twin Oaks has pared down. The songs primarily revolve around the dynamic between Domingo’s guitar—sometimes in tightly picked folk melodies and other times in a slow march of strummed chords—and Brown’s singing. With the exception of the eerie final song “Felt Like Dying,” Living Rooms leaves the singer vulnerable, full of reverb but without much instrumental cover. Armed with an evocative voice that sometimes resembles The xx’s Romy Madley Croft or Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, Brown is up to the task. She sings patiently and deliberately, milking each sparse syllable for all of its emotional worth.
Considering the words they form, those syllables are worth a lot. The lyrics on Living Rooms are intimate, pretty, and, for the most part, sad. In some songs, Twin Oaks conjure small but vivid fragments of imagery, creating a mood more than a story. “I'll watch them walk away / Light the flame and throw it down / Watch a kingdom burn,” Brown sings on “Collapse,” suggesting the outline of ruin without filling in the details.
In other songs, Twin Oaks writes in a more confessional and prosaic mode. In both “Rumors” and “Felt Like Dying,” they present their lyrics in paragraph form, each comprised of short, full sentences. In the former, Brown sings as if reading out of a journal: “I'll make sure to map out the ways from this old fucking town and I can't recognize myself. I don't see myself in any of the things I have,” she croons. Later, she adds, “Maybe I'm lying. ... Okay, I'm lying.” Evoking the feeling that she has reached this realization in the act of performing the song, the admission emphasizes the album’s sense of immediacy and vulnerability, already heightened by its live recording. With moments like these, Twin Oaks brings their listeners in close, inviting us into the room where they—and in turn, we—are exposed.