Album Review: Twin Sister - In Heaven

by Peter Valelly

Twin Sister is a Long Island, N.Y.-based quintet whose early EPs — 2008's Vampires With Dreaming Kids and 2010's Color Your Life — garnered them a modest following and a flurry of press attention. With their debut album In Heaven, which was released on September 27 by Domino Records, the group make good on the hype. Twin Sister have hit upon a compelling, spacious sound that blends indie rock songwriting with a lush instrumental palette that drawns upon influences as wide-ranging as '70s AM-radio-style soft-rock and '90s-esque trip-hop.

Unlike other bands aiming for a similarly chilled-out sensibility, Twin Sister largely eschew echo, reverb and white noise, opting for a cleaner, brighter style driven by synthesizers, drums and crisp guitar strumming. The result is lively, compelling and surprisingly contemporary.

The crucial ingredient in Twin Sister's sound is the lovely voice of lead singer Andrea Estella. She can pivot from evoking innocence and intimacy to sounding coy and conniving at the drop of a hat (to be fair, though, there's more than one great singer in the band — guitarist Eric Cardona's vocal turn on "Stop" is nearly as captivating as Estella's performances).

Opener "Daniel" sets the tone with an enthralling, shuffling soft-rock soundscape and a cooing vocal from Estella. It feels small and unambitious, but its low-key, lackadaisical intimacy is irresistible. The album's single, "Kimmi in a Rice Field," is another stunner, pairing Estella's most yearning vocal performance on the album with a cavernous, ethereal backdrop.

While the heady, laid-back vibe of those tracks suggests that Twin Sister are very much a studio band, the band's performance at the Varsity Theater last week was quite impressive, thanks to the members' dynamic instrumental interplay and Estella's commanding stage presence. In Heaven is a gorgeous record, but it could certainly do with an infusion of the band's seductive, infectious live energy.

Some tracks, like the slinky, sunny electro-rock of "Bad Street," bear traces of the band's in-concert vibrancy. "Saturday Sunday," though, is the only one that really captures the effervescence that Twin Sister brings to the stage. The band members sound like they're having a blast, laying down a sprightly, sun-soaked groove decorated in all the right places with crashing cymbals and atmospheric synths. Estella's delivery is exquisite, lending a mischeivous charm to lyrics like, "My friends are no fun/ they're out there lying in the sun/ I don't care/ If I'm tan or I'm fair/ just wanna have a better time." The album's best song, it effortlessly captures summer's trademark blend of boredom, unpredictability and euphora.

At a lean 36 minutes, there's little room for filler on In Heaven, and thankfully there are no clunkers per se, but the album does get a little samey with repeat listens. At first, its pleasant, relaxed vibe seems like a strong point, but ultimately it seems that the band has sacrificed the vivacity and agility that they're capable of in favor of a consistency of mood. Fortunately, Twin Sister are just starting out, and with live chops like theirs, it's unlikely they won't be able to hone and improve their songs. For now, they're just enjoying the ride, and with In Heaven, they provide a fitting soundtrack to the Indian summer that's befell the Twin Cities this week and last (and that will hopefully recur at least once more before winter)—wide-eyed, wistful and winning, all at once.