Mr Twin Sister
Mr Twin Sister
For Long Island chintzy pop quintet Mr Twin Sister, formerly sans-Mr, style and genre are entirely porous. Attempts to pin down the band’s influences result in absurd musings about “J-Pop Christmas carols with heavily flanged P-Funk bridges” and “Saint-Etienne-meets-Marvin-Gaye dance floor transcendence.”
Luckily, the band’s sense of feeling is completely inextricable from its sense of style. It coaxes oneiric beauty out of a pantheon of tackiness, engaging sincerely with quiet storm, acid house and new age to create something that divorces itself from genre and relies almost entirely on its own beauty. The modest debut In Heaven hinted at this direction, but Mr Twin Sister carries it to its logical drag-show extreme.
But beyond this balancing act of taste, the album’s greatest achievement is its sense of economy. Mr Twin Sister has a filter for what it releases. We’ve waited three years since its debut, an album that the band has since disowned as a half-baked and unsubstantial collection of studio experiments. And our patience is rewarded with an equally lean album — seven tracks plus one interlude, in total clocking in at less than 40 minutes. But with its elegant two-sided structure — lyrical focus on identity and widely varied song length — this album feels much more deliberate than In Heaven and so much more worth the wait.
Mr Twin Sister’s relentlessly smooth side A ends on the reverb-drenched, back-alley ballad “Blush.” From there, it pivots into its deliciously nocturnal side B, launching itself into the darkness with a total left hook, counter-intuitively titled “Out of the Dark.” It’s built around a nocturnal phuture-phunk groove so slinky and sinister it could seduce Matthew Dear, but it still can’t prepare first-time listeners for the next two tracks.
First comes a deeply unsettling techno jam called “Twelve Angels,” which sounds its gnashing death-chime on a tape loop for six straight minutes. And then we have an eerie saxophone interlude named for one of Long Island’s least savory neighborhoods, “Medford.” But kind enough to not leave that taste in our mouths, the band ends the album on its most ravishing tune yet, “Crime Scene.” With vocal harmonies courtesy of Ava Luna’s Becca Kauffman and Felicia Douglass, this is the airiest yet the most direct song on the album. It’s a dawn totally concomitant with the dusk of “Blush,” and it’s expansive enough to make up for the album’s limited scope. The album goes so many places in so few songs, but ends up just as clear-eyed and sweet as it began.
Mr Twin Sister is an intelligent band. But unlike other intellectuals of kitsch, it feels more substantial than Destroyer (though just as vaporous), more genuine than Twin Shadow (though just as catchy) and more grounded than Oneohtrix Point Never (though just as experimental). And this new album is astounding because it trusts its own tendencies, treating genres as useful objects instead of constraints. The band has taken time to find its voice, and it’s a sincere dulcet tone that carries through, even in the most alienating circumstances.