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Mr Twin Sister - Salt Music Album Reviews

Inside songs that capture the body-moving pulse of nightlife and the post-club comedown, the Long Island quartet follow the danceable lead of their last album.

The genre fluidity and playfulness of Mr Twin Sister evoke nostalgia for the CD era of indie. Since the Long Island quartet emerged near the end of the last decade with the charmingly lo-fi indie rock of Vampires With Dreaming Kids, they have pursued a number of alternate avenues—squishy synth-pop, stiff funk, starry disco. You could imagine plucking their eclectic, softly strange 2011 LP, In Heaven, from the aisles of Tower circa 1996, the disc alphabetically and musically lodged between Cibo Matto and Stereolab. Their self-titled 2014 album pushed their dance-oriented tendencies, flipping the way “dream pop” had often been used to describe their hard-to-classify stuff.

Mr Twin Sister’s third full-length, Salt, adds new flourishes to that electrified approach— moonlit jazz-pop reminiscent of the increasingly influential British act the Blue Nile, the placid environs of chillout, slinking R&B, Auto-Tuned outré-pop. There’s a distinct downtown New York City vibe that runs throughout these songs. Sure, Salt elicits imagery of rain hitting a cab window after a night out. More important, Mr Twin Sister, like city contemporaries Yaeji and House of Feelings, tap into a distinctly urban vein through gentle mutations of house and techno, their sound reflecting the cosmopolitan, body-moving pulse of the nightlife and the post-club comedown.

Salt’s highest points happen when the band’s impressive textures shape tuneful, easy-to-grasp songs, providing a lovely counterpoint to lead vocalist Andrea Estella’s millennial musings on digital desensitization, the melting pot of global culture, and the ills of consumerism. “Jaipur” thrums steadily beneath Estella’s commanding voice, fluttering woodwinds creating a fine mist around her. “Tops and Bottoms” pairs her introspective musings on fashion, body image, and the pressures of existing in public over a bed of brittle rhythms and luscious keyboards, while propulsive opener “Keep on Mixing” fashions hyperspeed pop from a skipping beat that suggests UK Garage and 2step.

Such conventions have become the reference points of copyists during the last decade, but Mr Twin Sister synthesize them differently, crafting distinct moods around them in a manner that feels out-of-step with indie trendspotting. The production throughout is astounding, especially when considering Mr Twin Sister’s modest beginnings. The details are vivid in the mix, like the saxophone curlicue that rolls into the piano-and-drums arrangement of “Alien FM” or the horns that burst forth in “Taste in Movies.”

Although Mr Twin Sister’s first release preceded chillwave, they gained prominence around the time the micro-movement took hold through the likes of Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian. Mr Twin Sister were briefly but incorrectly tagged this way, too, which made less sense as the band established their own genre-amorphous identity. But Mr Twin Sister have always been more than capable in establishing vibes, the essential quality of chillwave’s otherwise-nebulous form. On Salt, they’re sometimes too good at mood-setting music. The rippling, Vocalcity-like textures of slow-burning tracks such as “Deseo” and “Set Me Free” are just two of several instances that sound immaculate but offer little melodically except wispy atmospherics. But over-scrutinizing Mr Twin Sister’s capacity for vibe-setting feels like witnessing a rare bird in its natural habitat: attempting to examine them any closer risks disrupting the simple joy of watching them exist.

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