Mr Twin Sister Mr Twin Sister

[Twin Group/Infinite Best; 2014]

Styles: androgynous synth pop
Others: Twin Sister

So apparently Mr Twin Sister’s name change (from Twin Sister) was due to legal reasons, and while dealing with such an ordeal can be incredibly distressing to artists’ livelihoods and careers, it can also provide an opportunity for change, for a group to reassess its goals and improve upon future work. It seems that in lieu of simply finding a Caribou or an Owen Pallett of their very own to claim, Mr Twin Sister have used this legal concession as a way to vault themselves into the elusive “reinvention” stage of the Band Arc. And with this reinvention comes a litany of other changes, both felt and heard. Applying the male honorific to the overtly femme title of “Twin Sister” reconfigures them as fluid, genderless, unabashed, and with little regard to roles; a pop androgyne. But Mr Twin Sister refrain from using the new name as an affectation or as a platform for profound or political statements. This record makes no pretenses about identity politics, but it does celebrate the self as an idol of pure pop, delving into disco, lounge, soft rock, and only the sexiest iterations of post-disco electronic music to produce one of the stronger records of 2014.

Mr Twin Sister abandons the starry-eyed wistful indie rock of their pre-op debut In Heaven in favor of an electronic-tinged pop cocktail, keeping only its predilection for beautiful counterpoint melodies and whispered vocals, courtesy of Andrea Estella, which have grown somehow even more androgynous and cherubic on this record than before, approaching an idiolectic singularity to rival Björk’s perkiest chirps. Mr Twin Sister sounds like In Heaven’s more unhinged, extroverted, and ultimately cooler sibling. In abstract, it also sounds a lot like what other “indie pop” acts sound like these days: synth-oriented, electronic, sleeker, in the same sense that Twin Sister once sounded in abstract like a lot of other indie rock bands did back in 2011. But as always, they elude such diminutive comparisons by never writing songs that go where you expect them to. They understand that slick production, house music nods, and tenor sax aren’t just ends in themselves. The songs here spring forth from an infatuation with the music of love and late nights — late nights in clubs, late nights with jazz and wine, late nights in the streets with friends, late nights at home wrapped up in your own selfish intoxication. They pulse with blooming confidence, a palpable sexuality, and a subversive complexity that speaks to the immense amount of time they spent making this thing.

Mr Twin Sister’s chief instrument on this record is a groove, a particular kind of lilting funk with an edge that pervades throughout, an affect of theirs that works as one of their strongest tools. It’s an impatience, of sorts, to get out and move, to leap from the verses to the chorus, to shift from disco to nu-disco to house and back again before anyone notices. It bursts in on the two-minute mark of “Sensitive” and doesn’t let up; even as it goes through mechanized funk on “Rude Boy,” it confines itself to guitar swipes, flows out as electro stabs and afrofunk strums on “In The House Of Yes,” and swoons all over the slow burn of “Blush.” It’s a particular kind of unifying, giddy habit of the band, this groove, one that helps to connect all the disparate genres at work on Mr Twin Sister by way of a consistent desire to provoke change and motion. It’s this characteristic of the group — this sense that at any moment they could suffer a paroxysm of boredom and shift gears entirely, which they do, often — that makes their music sound so alien and also so energetic.

Mr Twin Sister reminds me a lot of Destroyer’s Kaputt, which is a great soft rock record for people who don’t like soft rock. Mr Twin Sister is a great synth pop record for people who don’t like synth pop. Their songs, immaculately produced and full of detail, embellish and accentuate, rather than subtract from their compositions, encouraging repeat plays to uncover their myriad layers. The first time around, the cleverness of the lyrics on “In The House Of Yes” might go unnoticed among the beautiful piano trills, sly rhythmic tricks, and the killer sax solo. Other tracks, like “Out Of The Dark” and Twelve Angels,” approach techno with a conqueror’s spirit, faithfully modulating and sculpting simple loops in the same style of classical additive electronic music, but soon diverting those energies into a pop context, into lyrics of sex and identity, wherein the propulsive thwp of a club beat begins to sound a lot like the heartbeat of someone rapt in self-discovery.

Nothing sounds half-assed here; even instrumental interlude “Medford” is stunningly rendered, a climactic snippet of sax and strings buoyed by swells of drone and what sounds like a mandolin. And that’s really why this album succeeds. From start to finish, it’s a solid bit of pop, one that clearly took a lot of hard work to make. Every second of this record was labored over with love — a prescient, colorful, devoted love. This record, too, is all about learning self-love, about suffering in anomie and doubt before fleeing to glamour and sublimating your fears by staying out every night and trying to be happy. And sometimes it’s about just giving in to those fears and drinking yourself asleep at home. Ambivalence is kind of the point.

Links: Mr Twin Sister - Twin Group/Infinite Best

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