, September 28th, 2011 05:26
Tucked away in some distant corner of the space-time continuum there exists a parallel universe where the musicians beloved of the fans of what one might term alternative are household names whose songs and actions really matter to more than just the select few. It's a world where St. Vincent is a bigger superstar than Madonna, where Dan Bejar cures starving African children and dines with the Pope, and where TV adverts for flash cars are soundtracked by Venetian Snares instead of Moby. In this other reality, the Velvet Underground were the real Fab Four, Kraftwerk sold more records than Bon Jovi, listening to the Shins really did change your life, and – along with the likes of Deerhoof and Animal Collective - Long Island five-piece Twin Sister are bona-fide chart-topping pop stars.
Back in this dimension, however, despite the internet it's still relatively rare for a band of leftfield origins to make a name for themselves outside of the indie ghetto, which makes the arrival of Twin Sister's debut long-player all the more exciting. In Heaven follows a pair of critically acclaimed EPs (Vampires With Dreaming Kids and Color Your Life, made available first for free via the band's website, then given an official release last year by Domino Records) that garnered immediate comparisons to Stereolab and the Cocteau Twins with their blend of lush drones and textures, ethereal vocals and repetitive, Krautrock-inspired rhythms. Here the group demonstrate both a maturation of their sound and a more playful side, with noir-ish mood pieces and electronic excursions rubbing shoulders with soulful cosmic disco and bright, brash pop songs.
If the EPs marked the group out as hazy, lo-fi practitioners in the Beach House mould, In Heaven benefits from a general polishing-up on terms of production, but more importantly from a more varied stylistic palette. Whilst earlier tracks like 'All Around And Away We Go' hinted at a deft song-writing touch and an undeniable way with a catchy hook, few could have predicted they had anything as effortlessly sophisticated as 'Stop', or as funky as 'Bad Street' - think Can's 'Spoon' remixed by James Murphy - in them. From the billowing music-box electronica of opener 'Daniel' and the jangling Francophile posturing of 'Gene Ciampi' to the Portishead Bond theme theatrics of 'Spain', it's an album that is fluent in many different languages; that it switches between them so subtly is nothing short of remarkable.
Despite the impressively tight arrangements, In Heaven unfurls at a luxurious pace, with even its peppiest moments radiating a relaxed, summery vibe. A song like the chiming 'Saturday, Sunday' evokes the kind of “fun in the sun” exploits described in the lyrics so perfectly that it's difficult not to imagine yourself and a group of friends diving off a jetty while the band play nearby. Even at their most ambitious, the group evince an intimacy that hugs the listener like a quilt on a chilly morning: 'Kimmi In A Rice Field' – seemingly a story about alien abduction – sees dramatic John Carpenter synth arpeggios colliding in slow motion with an opiated Twin Peaks vocal melody to surprisingly luminescent effect, while the similarly widescreen 'Luna's Theme' feels as weightless as its name might suggest.
Of course, it's impossible to talk about Twin Sister without mentioning their secret weapon, singer Andrea Estella, whose voice recalls a whole host of iconic female vocalists (Joni Mitchell, Liz Frasier, Laetitia Sadier, Bjork), and who looks like a hybrid of Neighbours-era Kylie and Debbie Harry circa 1980. In a world where Ellie Goulding is invited to sing at a royal wedding reception, there is surely room in every household's music collection for a voice like Estella's; and if not, well, there's always that alternative reality…