The New York City quartet’s fourth album is classic and romantic, capturing the liberated frisson of disco and house in an ultra-saturated palette.
Mr Twin Sister anticipate trends with alarming precision: Their 2014 self-titled breakout fused R&B with low-key, nocturnal dance music years before Okay Kaya and Erika de Casier emerged as indie darlings, while Salt, the band’s 2018 follow-up, incorporated tasteful 2-step beats and lush jazz textures before PinkPantheress had even sat her A-levels. Slowly but surely, Andrea Estella, Gabel D’Amico, Udbhav Gupta, and Eric Cardona’s distinctive sensibility has inched its way into the zeitgeist. In 2021, Mr Twin Sister’s back catalog sounds better than ever.
The band’s fourth album, Al Mundo Azul, doesn’t depart from the sound of Salt as much as find the next mutation in its genomic sequence, largely foregoing the wavey tones of 2010s dance pop in favour of lurid Danceteria neons. Queasy, dub-influenced tracks and flashes of synthy psychedelia still abound, but the unifying presence on Al Mundo Azul is a strain of ebullient oddball disco that sounds like it originated four planets left of 2020’s Dua Lipa-led disco revival. At the center is the band’s forever-conflicted protagonist, Estella, whose sly, vagrant vocal style—that of a disco diva after a few too many bumps of ketamine—belies lyrics concerned with the American cult of youth, tech addiction, and social disconnection.
At its best, Al Mundo Azul captures the liberated frisson of disco and house without resorting to simple recreation. “Expressions” plays like “I’m Coming Out” as covered by Fever Ray, a clammy synth squelch rubbing up against the song’s Chic-like strut. The entire song takes place in the moments before a hookup, channeling the electricity of waiting at home for the phone to buzz. The rhythm of Estella’s voice—melismatic and ecstatic at one second, staccato and forceful the next—conveys the tension and release: “All this waiting/Wanting you/And I love how it feels/When you’re coming near.” Estella has a flair for inhabiting anticipation of all kinds: “Polvo,” one of the band’s first songs to be written entirely in Spanish, explores the grotesque wonder of the human life cycle. “Cualquier cosa podría estar en el polvo/Una semilla y los muertos (Anything could be in dust/A seed and the dead),” they sing. It’s a huge, potentially morose topic, but Mr Twin Sister approach it with impishness and verve, adding telescoping synth sounds and cartoonish drum fills that make the whole affair feel like light work.
Al Mundo Azul is full of high-key setpieces like “Polvo,” but the tracks that stray from the album’s ultra-saturated palette tend to stall its momentum. Opener “Fantasy” is too busy by half, irregular drum beats and Estella’s glissading vocals creating a sense of panic that feels unfocussed and incoherent. “The Pine Tree,” a sax-heavy dub track, is a frustratingly stagnant interlude between “Diary” and “Despoil,” inquisitive, psychedelic house songs that number among the band’s best. These vignettes might have worked were the throbbing beats of songs like “Polvo” not so deeply intoxicating. Disco is clearly a good fit for Mr Twin Sister. By now, though, they’ve probably moved on to the next thing with a spring in their step.