Album Reviews

Twin Sister – In Heaven

(Domino) UK release date: 26 September 2011

After signalling their burgeoning promise with two well receivedEPs – 2008’s Vampires With Dreaming Kids and last year’s Color YourLife – Long Island raised, Brooklyn-based Twin Sister’s eagerlyawaited debut album is an opportunity for the five-piece to prove theycan deliver the goods across a full-length collection.

With their layers of retro synthesisers, glacial guitar and echoingdrums providing an atmospheric backdrop to singer Andrea Estella’schildlike, beguilingly insidious melodies, the EPs set the bar highand In Heaven falls a little short of emulating their best moments.Nevertheless, it’s still a largely consistent showing thatconsolidates Twin Sister’s position as one of the brighter talents ofthe thriving New York indie scene.

Vampires With Dreaming Kids was particularly memorable for itsstandout track Ginger, a swirling, ethereal epic that recalled thesoaring majesty of The Cocteau Twins in their otherworldly pomp.In contrast, In Heaven sees Twin Sister largely focusing on their morewhimsical, quirkily engaging side, with few of the darker, moredramatic moments that they’ve proved they can carry off so wellbefore. The one real exception is the ominous, cinematic Spain, whichsees Estrella briefly transform herself into a menacing siren in themould of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons alongside discordantguitars and trip-hop beats.

Elsewhere, we’re firmly in the realms of the 1980s as Twin Sistereclectically blend elements of that much-maligned decade’s signaturesounds. The results are somewhat mixed. Opening track Daniel has thekind of deliciously understated, house-influenced keyboards thatrecall early Pet Shop Boys at their most thoughtful, while KimmiIn The Rice Field could be a duet between Enya andVangelis, a theoretically hideous proposition that strangelystill works. Throughout, Twin Sister’s songs reveal themselvesslowly, gathering momentum at an unhurried pace and lapping gentlyaround the listener’s toes rather than announcing themselves withgreat waves of tune or noise. The subsequent effect can be thatcompositions like Luna’s Theme sound underwhelming and slightlyshapeless at first, but repeated plays allow their carefullyconstructed charms to shine through.

On the other hand, some of In Heaven remains resolutelyunremarkable even with perseverance. Saturday Sunday’s twee, banallo-fi jangle is The Primitives or The Sundays with none ofthe seductive sugar rush, Bad Street’s burbling funk is awkward andforced and Gene Ciampi’s bizarre melange of spaghetti western guitarsand Latin rhythms doesn’t hang together at all well. Twin Sister areat their best when they focus on producing evocative, interestingsoundscapes rather than trying to be cute and catchy – no betterdemonstrated than on closing track Eastern Green. Much of its fourminutes are hazily languid, yet every once in a while the minimal,almost ambient vibe is punctuated by a sudden flurry of chimingsynthesisers that twinkle blissfully before retreating back into theether.

The highlight of In Heaven is Estrella’s fluttering, almostunnaturally pure voice, which fits so perfectly into Twin Sister’soverall vibe it’s almost like another instrument. Combining elementsof Nico, Björk and Liz Fraser among others, it neversounds overstretched or out of place, effortlessly soaring, whisperingor cooing depending on the mood of the song. Despite her talents,ultimately In Heaven feels like a bit of a disappointment, but a greatalbum is still well within their abilities in the future if they ditchsome of the kookiness and concentrate on their considerable strengths.

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