The Watson Twins

Fire Songs

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On their first full-length album, the Watson Twins sound as if they're stepping back a bit from the folky Appalachian tone of their earlier work into an alternate reality where Natalie Merchant has taken over as lead singer of Mazzy Star. Fire Songs doesn't quite match the languid, semi-psychedelic tone of Mazzy Star, but there's a subtle, easygoing but melancholy drift to the music that at least puts it in the same ballpark, and Chandra and Leigh Watson's vocals have a sincere, personable Earth Mother tone that keeps this rooted in a recognizable reality even when they float into the land of dreams. Russell Pollard and Jason Soda of Everest produced the album, and they've given the songs an atmospheric ambience that suits the melodies, and though there's a tone of playful innocence to some of these tracks, especially the stripped-down blue-eyed soul of "How Am I to Be" and the '70s-style Laurel Canyon balladeering of "Bar Woman Blues," most of the selections cut a good bit deeper than that, and both the arrangements and the sweet but full-bodied vocals are able to carry the weight of "Sky Opened Up" and "Map to Where You Are." And while some acts working along these lines would cover the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" with tongue firmly in cheek, in this context it sounds much like the songs that surround it, and the Watsons show the fine pop tune the respect and dignity it deserves. This may be the Watson Twins' first proper album, but Fire Songs at once confirms the promise of their earlier EP and their work with Jenny Lewis while staking out a stronger and more complex identity of their own, and hopefully it's the first of several personal and compelling albums from the siblings.

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