If there’s one word to describe the self-titled new album by Long Island’s Mr Twin Sister, it is “conceptual.” Upon the first few listens, its structure seems unruly and schizophrenic, but there’s a definite arc to its progression, even if its two halves feel foreign to each other. One could also argue that the album as a whole sits like two EPs, rather than one story. The first half is lighter, with mounds of milky, glowing synths underneath lyrics that meditate on romantic fantasies, and the concept of being carefree, while the second half is seedier, and more aimed at the strange and mysterious factors of the night time.
Although the band have been putting out releases since 2008 as Twin Sister, Mr Twin Sister is their first LP under their new name and is considered by the band to be more of a proper debut than 2011’s In Heaven, which they in retrospect look at as more of a learning exercise. It’s a brash sentiment considering In Heaven is hardly anything to sneeze at, but it should be noted that this new self-titled is far more expansive then its predecessor and sounds like many months of concise work. The album’s opening track, “Sensitive” oozes outward, with a dreamy synth landscape, liquid guitar leads, and even some saxophone. On “Rude Boy,” a sexy dance groove kicks in which counterbalances lead singer Andrea Estella lack of desire to have anything to do with some dope hitting on her in a bar. The danciest track though actually is about being alone in your room — “The House of Yes” finds Estella sings about self-medicated bedroom dancing, set to and old school house beat that sounds as if culled from Björk’s Debut.
On Side A, it would seem the new Mr Twin Sister is embracing their sunnier side, but on Side B, the sun sets on their new vision. “Out of the Dark” is another dance track but with the world turned on its head, following the story of a trans person flaunting their new looks to the outside world and discovering the thrill of it. The track musically splits the difference between the Knife’s Deep Cuts and Silent Shout for a hot and androgynous club banger. “12 Angels” though takes Silent Shout and pushes it into the further bleakness of Shaking the Habitual which details someone in drag walking down the Long Island 112 highway late at night. Discordant piano loops and a fevered electronic beat syncopate over drones and the warped voices of Estella and Eric Cardona. The piece then intersects with the fluttery instrumental “Medford” which takes it name from of the main towns 112 runs through. On closing acoustic ballad “Crime Scene,” the pleasantness of the first half is mixed with a dark undercurrent, telling of a nightmare of discovering a loved one killed in a forest. The track plays like something found in a David Lynch movie, a surreal mixture of dreamy vibes set to a harrowing story.
The two sides of Mr Twin Sister might not sit together comfortably but they are both intriguing sides to the group who apparently have a followup already close to finished already. While this record doesn’t feel like the definitive “new debut” the group may be looking for, it does sound like the first part of what could be an interesting story, something that the ambient tones that finish out the album provide to perfect space to think about what could come next.