In Heaven positively glows. From the opening vibraphone strikes of “Daniel” onward, Twin Sister’s debut full-length carries with it a magnificent incandescence, with Andrea Estella’s addicting voice and Eric Cardona’s more earthbound one serving as its flighty anchors. Acting on the promise of their Vampires with Dreaming Kids and Color Your Life EPs and then some, the album serves as an unassumingly magnificent vehicle to show off the band’s impressive command on songwriting. Don’t let the ostensible simplicity of these songs deceive you; this is material delivered with a conviction befitting veterans, not a young quintet hailing from Long Island. Perhaps most impressively, the band never seems to be consciously trying to do anything; their stylistic shifts feel like the inevitable byproducts of their seemingly boundless talent.
Thanks to the band’s willingness to branch out into diverse territory, In Heaven has entry points for listeners of all types, even the most jaded listener. “Daniel” emerges from the distance with all the simultaneously modest and majestic grace of a sunrise, but if you’re predisposed to like stuff that makes your heart beat a bit quicker, there’s the irresistible disco groove of “Bad Street,” which finds Estella channeling her inner Satomi Matsuzaki with an omnipresent chirp of “beep, beep” and idiosyncratic lines like “Bad house, bad street/ Big hands, big feet.” In fact, I’m often reminded of Deerhoof’s pop deconstructionism while listening to these songs, not because the music necessarily sounds similar — more often than not, it’s less tightly wound than that San Francisco band’s carefully constructed chaos — but because Twin Sister flit in and out between different hyphen-filled genres, be they retro-disco or cinematic dream-pop or travelogue-happy indie, all while sounding like no one in particular.
The lyrical qualities of In Heaven are also distinct — heightened by Estella’s delivery, but also pretty indicative of mood on paper. Consider the relaxed AM-pop of “Saturday Sunday”: “Went to the marina/ I saw a girl there with no shoes/ She wore a bikini and she smiled at me and said/ ‘Please could I come? My friends are no fun/ They’re up there lying in the sand.’” The imagery practically screams “chill,” and the music follows suit, although that descriptor sells short the song’s masterful handling of texture and tone. Just as impressive is second single “Gene Ciampi,” a perfect little pop song that very carefully walks the line between cute and insufferable but stops right at the chorus: “If you like Gene Ciampi, you will love his movies.” The tune works this balance meticulously; at just over two minutes long, it’s incredibly well constructed, sinking its melodic hooks in within the first few jangly guitar notes and never letting up rhythmically or musically.
This clarity of intent allow Twin Sister’s more conspicuous idiosyncrasies to charm rather than grate. I mean, there’s a song here that opens with a line that at first seems to be about UFOs: “At first the sky was empty/ Kimmi’s being followed.” The best thing is that it’s delivered entirely without irony; “Kimmi In a Rice Field” is actually one of the most straightforwardly gorgeous songs on the album, Estella’s otherworldly high range taking flight alongside stunningly produced ambience. I could go on and on about the ravishing details that populate each and every one of these songs, from the hushed videogame synths of “Kimmi” to the tightly executed keyboard licks of “Stop” to the clever harmonic relationship between “Luna’s Theme” and “Space Babe,” but honestly, that would just overcomplicate things. In Heaven is best enjoyed in an environment that most matches the philosophy seemingly governing (and facilitating) its excellence, one where musical sophistication and immediacy are bedfellows, not enemies.
But really, thank goodness for In Heaven, as good a distillation of pop’s best qualities as I’ve heard all year. In a climate where “dreaminess” is often synonymous with nigh-impenetrable washes of sound, it’s beyond refreshing to hear music this clearheaded that still seems to exist in a world outside of our own. Perhaps more importantly, it’s wonderful to see a band that takes what it does as seriously as any other respected artist but doesn’t indulge in self-aggrandizing masturbation. While this modesty may render In Heaven a bit too “sleepy” for some to fully appreciate, it’s welcome to see artistry this proficient that isn’t enamored with itself. Twin Sister ultimately make music seemingly wired to appeal to our most intrinsic pleasure centers, and — as befits the album’s title — it’s nothing short of rapturous.