Friday, June 13, 2008

fire songs by the watson twins

Los Angeles can in no way be classified as warm and fuzzy. More like cynical and lizard-like -- of course, like every good Los Angeleno, I tend to, at times, be a bit harsh on my home town. Thankfully, we have transplants like Kentucky-born Watson Twins to lend us a bit of class. While publicly visible -- after all, what good indie kid hasn't heard Jenny Lewis' solo album? -- it's only now we get a proper introduction with the sisters' label debut, Fire Songs (out June 24th).

Fire Songs proves that The Watson Twins will have a career far beyond their high profile collaborations. Both more musically (hello electric guitars!) and thematically varied than Jenny Lewis' Rabbit Fur Coat, The Watson Twins create a world that's at times wistful ("Fall," "Only You"), downtrodden ("Bar Woman Blues," "Only You") or, alternately, rooted in sweet daydream ("Just Like Heaven," "How Am I to Be"). While the sound is based far south of Silverlake, the themes are universal: loneliness, love, longing, and the ever present death.

While I'd prefer to hear the the ladies in a bit less of a over-produced setting (don't worry, I felt just dirty writing that as you did reading it), their gentile (dare I go pun crazy and say "southern?") manners and beautiful voices save Fire Songs from being just another anonymous, banking and shopping soundtrack1. Their sweetness doesn't indicate a denial of pain, but rather, when combined with their world-weary lyrics, indicates the ability to see past life's indignities. If only we could all handle our issues with the same dignity and grace2.

Introduced early on in life to 80s new wave, I find myself simultaneously biased and judgmental about the era. However, I was easily and completely won over with the album's highlight, the Watson's Cure cover "Just Like Heaven." Note: This is not blanket praise. Years ago, 311 covered "Love Song," a fact which still leaves cold shivers down my spine. But Leigh and Chandra know better than to attempt to emulate Robert Smith's makeup-caked wail. Instead their slow, gentle, harmonica-drenched take at the song plays like the perfect counterpoint to the original material's stark treatment of reality, treating the listener to a delicious mid-summer, sun-drenched day dream oasis.

1. Although promotional materials indicate you may be hearing it on certain airlines this summer...given my nature to tense up while flying I'll take all the musical comfort I can get.
2. Take note, man who flipped me off on the freeway.

(photo watson twins: Pamela Littky)

mp3: "How Am I To Be" by The Watson Twins
mp3: "Darlin' Song" by The Watson Twins (originally on the Southern Manners EP)

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