The purpose of dream pop, as best as I can tell, is to distract the listener from terrestrial concerns and place him, temporarily, in a blissful, detached state. It’s right there in the name: “Dream pop.” This is music that is sometimes dense, sometimes illusory, sometimes hallucinatory, but always atmospheric and, above all, pretty. I am at a loss to come up with any artist under such an umbrella whose music wasn’t at least, most of the time, gorgeous. Though the Cocteau Twins occasionally made frighteningly foreign sounds, and Broadcast made occasional diversions into electronic noise, the unifying characteristic between these bands was their general focus on matters of airy, weightless beauty. But beyond an intangible feeling, how dream-pop is defined is mostly up to the dreamer.
Long Island quintet Twin Sister is a dream-pop band in the general sense of the word, but not necessarily in the same way that Cocteau Twins or Broadcast are. On their Domino Records debut, In Heaven, Twin Sister project that airy, weightless beauty through the simple melodies and atmospheric effects throughout the album’s ten tracks, as well as through the sweetly detached vocals of Andrea Estella. But their approach is a little bit funkier, a little bit dancier, and a little bit sexier than many of their atmospheric peers or forebears, which may very well mean the dreams they soundtrack tend to be a bit steamy or lascivious.
In Heaven gets off to a hazy, gentle start with “Daniel,” a hypnotic mixture of xylophone and trip-hop beats that’s simple but perfectly crafted, easily one of the album’s prettiest tracks. From there, however, the band slowly begins to incorporate more R&B elements, as on the Sáde meets Cocteau Twins bedroom funk of “Stop.” That streak of pulsing beats and electronic sparkle continues with the excellent single “Bad Street,” a head-nodding pop standout that reminds me of Luscious Jackson more than anything, and that’s kind of awesome. And the snapping electronic drums and ethereal keyboards of “Space Babe” and “Kimmi in a Ricefield” look to even higher funk royalty for inspiration, more specifically a purple-clad Minneapolis legend.
The blend of danceable, corporeal elements with more ethereal dream-pop styles on In Heaven is so wonderfully woven, it’s hard to believe more bands haven’t attempted such a mixture. But it did take Twin Sister a while to get here; over a two-year period, the band posted more than 100 demos of in-progress material on their website. However many takes Twin Sister needed to arrive on the perfect recipe, they’ve managed to get it just right on In Heaven.
Saint Etienne – Good Humor
Luscious Jackson – Fever In Fever Out
Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas
Stream: Twin Sister – “Bad Street”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.