The Courtneys’ Jen Twynn Payne explores big emotions through modest means as Big Rig.
My summer playlists have traditionally been full of big bangers decked out with sweltering hot bass lines. This year, I’m leaning towards a more subtle but no less stirring soundtrack that’s relied heavily on Big Rig’s punky country twang to take the edge off.
Big Rig is the project of Jen Twynn Payne, who plays drums and sings in the Courtneys. After finishing work on a new as-yet-unreleased Courtneys album, Payne put down the drumsticks, picked up a guitar, and started penning the plaintive, plucky tunes on Big Rig’s self-titled debut. Aided by her banjo-playing cousin-in-law, Geoffo Reith, Big Rig finds Twynn Payne exploring big emotions through modest means: a stripped-back countrified sad-pop sound she’s dubbed “twangmo.”
Though its tone is more tear-in-my-beer than beach-party-blowout, Big Rig takes a light-hearted approach to post-pandemic pop culture invasiveness. On the reality-TV-inspired opener “Bachelorette,” Twynn Payne articulates the kind of internal (and sometimes external) dialogue one experiences while binge-watching these shows: “All these stupid guys / they don’t even realize / what they’re saying will be their eventual demise.” Lyrically, “Happy Song” laments that try as she might, Twynn Payne can’t actually seem to write one. “How come every song I write / They sound so sad,” she asks over top of a plucky beat. Maybe it’s due to being raised on classic country and a steady diet of 90s indie alt-folk in her formative years. Most likely, it’s that Twynn Payne’s — and by default Big Rig’s — nature is to work the shitty stuff out in song. Both “Open 83” and “Venus Retrograde” reference not expecting a life-altering relationship moment but, in hindsight, not being surprised by the decision. “Clozer,” too, is a heartbreaking look back at a relationship that, in retrospect, is unbalanced (and likely unhealthy), but in Big Rig’s raw and plain-spoken manner, you get the sense that though the hurt still stings, Twynn Payne’s using music as a means of getting some distance between herself and her pain.
In the end, Big Rig is a record that’s as easy on the ears as it is tender on the soul.
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