Mr Twin Sister return with Al Mundo Azul, the New York group’s fourth full length album and first major offering since 2018’s Salt.
From the opening measures of the clangorous, scene-setting “Fantasy”, the record takes off on a tear, swapping the group’s restrained cool for something wide awake and grinning. After garnering critical attention from the dense homemade pop of their early EPs - 2008’s Vampires with Dreaming Kids and 2010’s Color Your Life - the group released their debut LP In Heaven (2011) via Domino. The group re-emerged in 2014 with the low lit disco and funk of their self-titled, self-released Mr Twin Sister. The impetus for Al Mundo Azul came as a challenge from singer Andrea Estella on the heels of 2018’s Salt: “let’s make our most upbeat album - something light hearted and fast.” The group’s pre-LP singles have delivered on this promise. “Expressions” polishes the spaced-out disco of 2018’s “Echo Arms” into bright, lustrous pop (both tracks highlight top-line obsessive Eric Cardona’s handiwork), while "Diary" and "Polvo" flirt with acid-burnt piano house and thumping, disoriented latin pop.
The group’s Gabel D’Amico describes the album’s sonic approach: “We wanted to flip stylistic switches to their opposite positions. Immediacy over complexity, alien sounds over natural ones, loose playing over perfect takes. A bright record to come after all the nighttime music we’ve made.” Member Udbhav Gupta points to the importance of, “Making each element strong and distinctive, having space, and highlighting things that are less pretty but have personality.” The result is a record that stands apart in a catalogue already full of left turns.
The group has dabbled in bilingual songwriting before, but Spanish-language music becomes integral for the first time on Al Mundo Azul. Estella exudes confidence and verve on album standouts “Polvo,” “Carmen,”and “Al Mundo Azul.” They explain, “Lyrics and storytelling felt new again [in Spanish].” Raised in a bilingual household by an immigrant parent, Estella is still grappling with the ramifications of speaking Spanish at an early age only to become estranged from the language as an adult. Writing songs presented an opportunity to exorcise lingering insecurities: Estella explains, “It felt like I was running out of time - I didn’t want it to be a missed opportunity. I had to say ‘fuck it.’”
With the LP announcement comes single, "Ballarino" -- ostensibly the record’s most straightforward pop entry, we get the sense that the group may be pulling our leg. As it turns out, this shapeshifting, sticky track is a tongue-in-cheek flip on a love song.
About the song Estella (they/them) explains: "It’s about having access to a smartphone, and how it changed my lifestyle: looking to it for everything, and being addicted to having it held up in front of your face at all times. The theme is the feeling of something new. Wonder.”
As tracks smash-cut, the characters of Al Mundo Azul jostle for attention: “Carmen” laments and begs for respite, “Beezle” sneers and turns a cold shoulder, “The Pine Tree” goes up in flames, and “Al Mundo Azul” exhales, turning toward the blue beyond. Estella cites children’s stories as a lifelong touchstone, explaining, “I like how kid’s stories tackle the hard stuff that we have to deal with in life. As a child, when my dad would turn on the news - this serious and tragic stuff - I made a decision then and there that I would never let go of childish things.” Al Mundo Azul pulls off a similar coup: it uses vibrant, surreal pop to unpack heady ideas and emotions. Estella explains, “I like a mixture of dark and lightheartedness. I like that balance because that’s what real life is.”
Al Mundo Azul is out November 19th via Twin Group.