Mr Twin Sister opens their self-titled LP with “Sensitive”, featuring nearly the same whirring synthesizer loop as Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”. Though “Sensitive” never elevates from its resting heart-rate quite like the sublime “Everywhere”, the suggestion of ubiquity lurks at the edges of the sexy neon dreamscape of Mr Twin Sister. The record sounds timeless: opiate disco merging with the downtown tribal modernism of the last decade, and at times, slow dance croon. Singer Andrea Estella poses the question, “Is this just an illusion? Is this just romantic dreaming?” as if to ask if her band can really exist in the fraught landscape of everywhere and nowhere. Perhaps the sympathetic imagination allows for these spaces. Having changed their name from their suitably successful days as Twin Sister, the band now tracks across a diverse debut as attuned to the dance floor as it is to touching noses under the comforter. This is everything and anything.
The band playfully asserts its pop credentials and desire to transgress their boundaries from the outset. Unleashing sultry low-end on “Rude Boy”, a titular wink to Rihanna’s smash, the Mr Twin Sister’s iteration recalls a glossier version of the underwater pop the band displayed on 2010 single “All Around and Away We Go”. Estella squares up the ubiquity conversation on the lyric, “You need to be everything.” Desire, and little on Mr Twin Sister doesn’t deal with this concept in one way or another, is recast as something problematic, spacious even. Rihanna’s asinine and much-consumed “What you want, want, want” wilts in Mr Twin Sister’s ineffable world of wanting unspecifically. The synth-stabs at the beginning of “In The House of Yes” recall the back-beat keyboards of “The Macerena”, a joke this writer believes Mr Twin Sister is decidedly in on.
Much of the satisfaction in Mr Twin Sister lies in the band’s ability to stand inside and outside the pop arena: ribbing the genre for its goofy lack of meaning and playing within its capacious confines. This is part of growing up, or in their case, part of recasting themselves away from Domino Records. They seem to ask: Just how much of the establishment are you prepared to participate in? “In the House of Yes”, a bumping house track, likely refers to the Brooklyn art and performance space of the same name. At one time the House of Yes hosted some of Brooklyn’s best and weirdest parties until an enormous paper-mache head above a toaster in the kitchen caught fire and burned the Ridgewood, Queens space to the ground. The house had been a panoply of circus performers: trapeze artists hanging from the ceiling, a dude stapling your suggested donation to his chest or forehead. The House of Yes rose again but in different fashion, not unlike transition of moving on from a label, the adding of a suffix to Twin Sister. Edifices burn, whether they’re meant to or not. The wailing horns at the end of “In the House of Yes”, like their eponymous location, suggest the best places contain a bit of absurdity and fatalism. None of this lasts. “Funny how things have to end,” sings Estella on “Out of the Dark”.
The band manages to situate the delicate and darkly cosmopolitan in a sort of chiaroscuro. “Blush” and “Crime Scene” carry the listener away from any discourse on pop permanence and toward the intimate. Taking the echoes of the Cocteau Twins and filling it with the sensual R&B of the moment, Mr Twin Sister achieves the blurriness of a face held too close. Even proximity doesn’t promise knowing, she seems to wonder on “Blush”, singing, “Is there even a real me?”. Drawing in and pulling away, “Out of the Dark” heads out of the bedroom and toward downtown. Estella is her most didactic on “Out of the Dark”, sounding like equal parts Tanlines and the Knife as she unleashes the satisfying and subversive: “I am a woman, but inside I’m a man, and I want to be as gay as I can.” Parsing her lyrics will surely be lost in the viscera of washing synthesizers and yelping samples. Knowing isn’t as important as doing. Kiss whomever you want.
Mr Twin Sister covers significant territory in its eight tracks, resisting easy treatment all the while. If there is a underlying joke to the second iteration of Twin Sister, it is surely that the glossy pop appears so readily digestible. It is—Andrea Estella’s vocal carrying the arrangements through deep sadness, mind-numbing good times and the moments where there seems to be no space between us at all. The final emptiness at the close of “Crime Scene”, the album’s final track, allows for the absence of authorial intent—the final freedom of the artist. It means, thankfully, whatever anyone says it means.