After taking a break from concepts with their self-titled album, Liars return to themed songs with Sisterworld, an album about the alternate spaces people create to survive in Los Angeles -- and they’re just as weird, thought-provoking, scary, funny, and ambitious as ever. This is the first time the band has recorded in the U.S. since They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, working in several studios across L.A. It’s a homecoming for Liars in more ways than one. The band formed officially in Brooklyn, but Angus Andrew and Aaron Hemphill were art students in the City of Angels, and Sisterworld’s eclectic sprawl suggests that L.A. is the band’s spiritual home. Likewise, Liars revisit some previous sounds and ideas, but go deeper into them. More importantly, they reassert themselves as masters of uneasy listening: Sisterworld is a messed-up place, with the feeling of rampant urban decay and too many people, too many cars, and too many buildings rubbing up against each other. Liars use their whole spectrum of fear and paranoia, mixing their fiery and dreamy sides in unpredictable ways. “Scissor” begins the album with mournful choral vocals, piano, and bassoon, then snaps into violent rock; as Andrew sings of finding an injured woman and taking her to a parking lot, it’s unclear whether he’s hurting her or saving her. This confusion is key to Sisterworld. Unlike the more clearly defined targets in the band’s previous conceptual albums, Liars visit increasingly abstract territory here. “Here Comes All the People”’s vertiginous melody and swarming whispers reek of claustrophobia, while “Drip”’s fixation with disease and sinking sub-bass suggests being attacked from within. Sisterworld’s louder songs are just as complicated. “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant” throbs with self-righteous hatred, led by a monstrous synth bass and guitars sick with distortion as Andrew shouts “How can they be saved from the way they live everyday!?” “The Overachievers” is that song’s flipside, a snarky rant about bio-car driving hipsters who let their lives slide away with surfing and smoking weed; it's the album’s funniest, and maybe most incisive, track. Elsewhere, the band puts a perversely pop spin on Sisterworld’s pervasive dread with “No Barrier Fun”; adds brassy heft to its despair with “Goodnight Everything”; and exits these alternate spaces with “Too Much, Too Much,” the album’s most reassuring track (despite its mention of demons). Though the concept and the band’s handling of it are impressive, listeners don’t have to be aware of it to appreciate the almost tangible moods Liars create on each song. Despite its explosive moments, Sisterworld is a surprisingly subtle album, one designed to make you think twice about the worlds behind the faces you pass on the street.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares