Photo By Lynne Graves

The Lemon Twigs w/ Andrew H. Smith

The Iron Horse (18 Center St., Northampton, MA)


The Lemon Twigs w/ Andrew H. Smith at The Iron Horse on Friday, July 26 2024

Following the release of Everything Harmony, which garnered acclaim from Questlove, Iggy Pop, Anthony Fantano, The Guardian, and countless others, The Lemon Twigs—the New York City rock band fronted by brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario—have once again captured the attention of the music listening public. They are in their premature “comeback” stage, and coming back this early has its benefits; the brothers have the energy of 24- and 26- year-olds, plus the experience and songwriting chops of seasoned musicians, having recorded their first album, Do Hollywood, nearly a decade ago at ages 15 and 17.   

Set for release less than a year after their last album, A Dream Is All We Know is a joyous affair. As the title suggests, it’s less of a sober look at the darker side of life, and more a hopeful sojourn into the realm of dreams. The tone has shifted away from dreary melancholic ballads and moody power pop. Brian and Michael are revisiting their “1968” sound. This album feels closely related to Do Hollywood, but their songwriting and recording techniques have vastly improved over the course of five albums.

 The brothers combine elements of the Merseybeat sound, the California Beach Boy harmony sound, and Bubblegum to create a unique collection of pop nuggets. (They say it’s part of a new “Merseybeach” movement, sure to catch on, though that fact remains to be seen.)

 The sense of urgency imbued in lead single “My Golden Years” comes in part from the jangly 12-string guitars and driving drums, but also from the anxiety of a narrator who can feel their “golden years” slipping away from them. Michael’s line, “In time I hope that I can show all the world the love in my mind,” can serve as a statement of intent for the whole collection of songs, as the brothers race against time to create as much quality pop material as possible.

 “They Don’t Know How To Fall In Place” propels the album forward into bubblegum paradise with its euphoric harmonies and biting clavinet, while the Roy Wood inspired “Church Bells” takes you on a journey in its two-minute and nine-second run time. At every turn you’re introduced to a new instrument, and as Michael sings “ring goes the bell,” the drummer switches to the bell of the ride cymbal and the song reveals itself as a pop tone poem, complete with cellos, mandolin and trumpets, all played by Brian. Not to mention the fun Mersey pun, using famous drummer Ringo’s name in a song that conflates images of the west side of Manhattan with the atmosphere of northern England. Next comes the titular “A Dream Is All I Know,” an existential space age epic, followed by the baroque pocket-prog of “Sweet Vibration.”

 Equipped with the songwriting chops of a lost era (somewhere between The Brill Building and 10452 Bellagio Road) the new record was carefully arranged and produced entirely analog in the brothers’ Brooklyn recording studio. Most of the tracks were constructed with the two brothers swapping instruments and layering all the parts themselves. One of the exceptions to that rule was “In The Eyes Of The Girl,” co-produced by Sean Ono Lennon in his upstate New York studio, which had the brothers tracking drums and piano while Lennon handled bass duties. On top of that, the brothers add multilayered harmonies that bring to mind The Beach Boys, The Four Freshman, and The Free Design.

Side two’s opener “If You And I Are Not Wise,” has the brothers channeling the Everlys’ close harmonies while seeking spiritual illumination with the line, “I wish that someone could tell me what my soul knows that I don’t know.” Brother Brian says, “There’s definitely an escapist bend to this album. Joyous music can take you out of the world when things get too heavy, which everyone needs sometimes. ”

“How Can I Love Her More?” is a whirlwind of musical flights of fancy. Blaring horns and strings set the stage before the song settles into a rollicking shuffle, complete with two drum sets, an adventurous bass part, theremin, flutes and harpsichord. It’s a kitchen sink approach, full of left turns, but never bordering on cacophony. It segues directly into the peaceful, sparser “Ember Days,” propelled by a meditative nylon string pattern that’s part bossa nova, part Nick Drake. The peace doesn’t last long though, as “Peppermint Roses” erupts with a menacing Farfisa into a two-part nightmare comedy that doesn’t let up. The album unwinds with the dreamy “I Should’ve Known Right From The Start.” It’s like a forgotten piece of French Pop that just happens to be sung in English, complete with arpeggiated acoustic guitar, melodic bass and catchy drum hooks.

While the album is chock full of progressive pop ideas, it closes with an ode to early rock and roll on“Rock On (Over and Over).” “Rock On” contextualizes the band as part of a lineage of rock and roll that’s never really stopped. In every decade there have been bands that have put their own spin on the music and “push(ed) it on down to the line.” But none have done it with the attention to detail and raw talent of these brothers. For The Lemon Twigs, it took almost a decade for critics and audiences alike to present them with the major accolades they’ve earned this past year. While their initial records were appreciated for the musical proficiency they displayed, the brothers’ past few records have communicated their ideas with more clarity and emotional resonance. In other words, “It took too long to say ‘rock on.’”


“He’s a born entertainer. He’s kind of an old, Jewish borscht-belt entertainer in the body of a smarter, musical millennial.”

- Paul de Jong (The Books)

Andrew H. Smith is a songwriter from Western Massachusetts. He began releasing music in 2013 under the name Jungle Green, a solo project which later evolved into a six-piece rock group. Smith has released over twenty albums, drawing upon musical traditions of pop, rock and roll, hip-hop, electronic, and noise music. He has also recorded an album of his music with producer Jonathan Rado (Foxygen), and contributed vocals on solo albums by Paul de Jong (The Books). In 2018, journalist Leor Galil published a feature piece on Smith's music and outside-the-box promotional tactics in The Chicago Reader.