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      Two Gallants

      October 29, 2011

      The title characters in James Joyce's short story "Two Gallants" are a couple of jerks, scam artists cheating an unsuspecting woman out of some change. It's tough to square this portrait with Two Gallants, the band; there's no funny stuff going on in Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel's music, just barely reined-in passion.

      Imagine a folk duo reared on freak-rock twosomes like Hella, minus any awkward hybrid-ness, and you've got a basic idea of what Stephens and Vogel do. There are only three ingredients in the mix here, and each one counts: Stephens's pinched vocals, which he delivers with a rueful edge; his chiming electric guitar, played in a rootsy fingerpicking style; and Vogel's busy yet beautifully loose drumming, which sounds like a way more chilled-out Zach Hill. The sum is Americana given an urgent DIY makeover.

      Given their powerful chemistry, it's not surprising that Stephens and Vogel have played together since adolescence. The San Francisco pair founded Two Gallants in 2002, and by '05, they had signed to Saddle Creek Records, a sympathetic home for their punk-folky aesthetic. The next few years bought blessings (a healthy buzz and a choice Jimmy Kimmel appearance), a curse (a nightmarish Houston show cut short by a Taser-happy cop) and eventually a hiatus, during which both Stephens and Vogel launched other projects.

      Reactivated in 2011, Two Gallants have a challenge ahead: reacquainting themselves with fans in an era of frustratingly brief buzz cycles ("We weren't sure if you guys remembered us or not," the band fretted on their website)... and that's not a bad thing; as anyone who's caught the duo live could tell you, Stephens and Vogel are clearly the types who treat adversity like fuel.

      --Hank Shteamer

      You should definitely watch part 2 right now.

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