Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
Ever since “All Around and Away We Go” reminded me of Talking Heads last
summer, I’ve kept my eyes out (and many fingers crossed) for flashes of
Twin Sister’s name across the blogosphere. Much to my delight, it
showed up last summer alongside fellow NYCers’ The Pains of Being Pure
at Heart on a touring bill aimed at the Midwest, with a stop at OU’s
campus (not three minutes’ walk from my house) right smack in the middle
That show was just last Friday. Both bands were on form and very friendly to chat with, despite slightly less than ideal attendance. But I digress. On to “In Heaven,” Twin Sister’s debut LP for Domino Records.
It’s a delightful, gentle indie record with wide ranges in sound, but not mood (set at “wispy”), save for the bizarre standout “Kimmi in a Ricefield,” a cavernous, twisted, sci-fi story that anchors the middle of the record. It’s also confidently sparse – the band does well to occupy all the sonic gaps without completely filling them. It’s a team effort, organized by Gabel D’Amico’ smooth, technical bass play.
Those hoping for a record full of “All Around”-style funk guitars and catchy disco beats are forced to wait until “Bad Street,” the third track, which inspired a bit of dancing at Friday night’s show. But the first two, “Daniel” and “Stop,” both set the album’s alluring tone with lyrics like “Saw you makin’ eyes at me / Hotels are loneliest.” Andrea Estella’s voice remains almost perpetually girlish and evasive, like she relishes playing hard to get.
Sandwiched between a pair of more boring tracks (“Space Babe” and “Luna’s Theme,” which sounds like watered-down Beach House) “Kimmi” seems to simultaneously soar above and dive into a very deep, atmospheric environment, cast by an echoing drum machine and synths that ebb and flow. Wandering about with a boy, the narrator happens upon the sight of her dead sister, and the ghost haunting her. She turns to run through the rice field, which reaches out and consumes her.
“Kimmi” is a trippy moment of ugly action in an otherwise very pretty, lighthearted album full of scenery and emotive lyrics. It stands out. Similar is “Gene Ciampi,” in that it rides a towering spaghetti-Western guitar riff, but like much of the rest of the disc, it’s also characterized by Estella’s cutely sung lyrics about a movie star with “skin of bronze” and a “heart of gold.” It’s the best example of her girlishness on the record.
“In Heaven” is as carefully conceived a debut album you’ll hear for a while. And it’s got just enough catchy stuff with “Bad Street” and “Gene Ciampi” and meaningful stuff in “Kimmi” to beckon you to return to it. It’s not quite shoegazey and it’s not truly pop, either, but some wispy, dreamy genre in between.