wears the trousers magazine


the watson twins: talking to you, talking to me (2010)
January 18, 2010, 11:35 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , ,

The Watson Twins
Talking To You, Talking To Me ••••
Vanguard

The Watson Twins came to prominence in 2006 as the backing vocalists on Jenny Lewis’s solo turn Rabbit Fur Coat, a throwback LP loosely inspired by Laura Nyro’s collaboration with soul trio Labelle on 1971’s Gonna Take A Miracle. They took a more countrified course with their own album, Fire Songs, in 2008, but now Chandra and Leigh are back with second LP Talking To You, Talking To Me, a sumptuous glory that appears to find the two singers their niche. It’s an album that brings out a much more sophisticated, sleek metropolitan soul sound to The Watson Twins’ palette; ‘60s inspired and lushly arranged, Talking To You, Talking To Me is a wonderfully contemporary update of some familiar styles. Cynics might accuse the Twins, on a couple of songs, of jumping on the retro-pop bandwagon of recent years, but while there’s little water held in comparisons with the more commercial sounds of Duffy and Amy Winehouse, something like the sultry ‘Forever Me’, with its slow, reverb-laden drum beat and moodily-strummed jazz chords does recall some of Winehouse’s earlier material, like ‘Take The Box’ from Frank.

Elsewhere, though, as on the bluesy ‘Midnight’, what begins as a mid-tempo, sexy ballad, with ‘60s-style backing harmonies and an insistent piano riff, mutates into a blistering jam with a riveting organ solo. The sublime ‘Harpeth River’, too, is somewhat surprising, with a subtle trip-hop influence incorporated into its jazzy arrangement. It begins in moody fashion, but the change of rhythm for the chorus, ushering in some gnarly guitar licks in the second verse, is pure ear candy. It comes with the territory here to expect the unexpected. The Twins’ almost deadpan vocal delivery, sometimes recalling Debbie Harry’s early work with Blondie, provides a strange detachment that works surprisingly well when juxtaposed with comparatively sunny ’60s updates like two-minute pop confection ‘Savin’ You’ (almost like Blondie meets Sandie Shaw) and the rhythmically unusual swirls of dreamy melancholia and brilliant spaghetti Western guitar lines that characterise ‘The Brave One’. The slinky ‘Tell Me Why’, meanwhile, boasts some bossa nova influence.

But not all of the album is so focused on the past; ‘Snow Canyons’ is an ageless, introspective, acoustic ballad with an unaffected, crystal-clear vocal performance, while the energetic romp of ‘U-N-Me’ is a soaring, soulful drivetime rocker and closing number ‘Modern Man’ is taut, tense indie-pop. The album begins to lose steam towards the end with a few too many downtempo numbers, but you can’t fault the brilliantly evocative arrangements and production work from Russell Pollard and J Soda. It’s a wonderfully cohesive work; as Leigh Watson says, “I feel we’ve honed how to work together and I think our singing style on this album strengthened the idea of the two of us being one voice. What people expect from us is very different from what this record is” – and that’s as good a description of this album as any.

Talking To You, Talking To Me, then, comes as something of a surprise package, perhaps. Just when you thought those retro ‘60s updates had been done to death, The Watson Twins re-emerge with an album that brings together those classic sounds with a contemporary bent that is thoroughly inspired, refreshing, and often quite scintillating. Tackling a variety of different styles with ease, they carve out a consistent record from apparently disparate sounds. A sparkling way to start the new decade.

Matt Barton
UK release date: 08/02/10; www.myspace.com/thewatsontwins


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