Angus Andrews’ sighing falsetto is the first sound heard on the Liars’ Sisterworld, before backup accompaniment settles in to complement him. This Gregorian chant-like mantra establishes new territory for this distinct trio originally from Brooklyn.
In addition to being the Liars’ new home, Los Angeles is a constant theme of the fractured, hodgepodge album. The tunes are at times eerie (“Drip”), ethereal (“No Barrier Fun”) and even blissful (“Proud Evolution”). Of course, its brand of manic, punk zeal is present on the musical bridge of the opening “Sister” and the especially ass-kicking song “Scarecrows On a Killer Slant.”
Although this album plays more like a collection of songs brought together by happenstance, each one possesses an absorbing mood meant for enjoyment in its own right. Perhaps, the primacy of mood is the one binding trait.
Whether it’s the dreadful paranoia of “Drip,” or the surging grunge of “The Overacheivers,” Liars is trying to burrow inside the listener’s head to evoke an indelible mix of urban chaos, like that of Los Angeles night life.
Treading new ground is undeniably apparent on “Proud Evolution,” where a slice of Yeah Yeah Yeahs-inspired reverb-drenched guitar establishes a hopeful mood before getting interrupted by a sinister base, followed by Andrews’ subdued vocals.
Next, the rhythm section, with an apparent nod to the band’s first album, employs a dance groove of drum and base precision. A single piano note provides an eerie undertone, but the reverb guitar comes back, as a hypnotizing and cathartic element. Reassuring the senses, the song is the centerpiece of the album and resembles the sun rising on the grimy cityscape after a night of heavy drinking and forgotten expeditions. It is the most beautiful piece the band has written since the close of Drum’s Not Dead.
“No Barrier Fun” finds the group dabbling in trip-hop again, (“Sailing to Byzantium” from Liars) with a quicker and more succinct outcome. The rhythmically tantalizing violin and incessant electronic bleeps/oscillations distill a trance-like atmosphere into the song, while Andrews’ calm delivery amidst the precise drumming confines the crescendo to a murmur.
Although its theme is Los Angeles, Sisterworld never feels like it’s impregnated with the drawbacks or peculiar benefits of a concept album. Sisterworld, more so than any of the Liars’ other LPs, is about control and restraint and releasing an upsurge of energy at the right moments.
The soft-loud technique is not simply present on the opening track; it also structures the album, signaling the unpredictability and diversity of experiences living in a large, urban environment.
Like most cities, the music’s soul is evoked through the divergent moods portrayed to the listener. Perhaps intolerable at first, or at times too opaque, after living inside it for a while, the music begins to reveal its subtleties and intrinsic magic.
Liars – Sisterworld tracklist
- “No Barrier Fun”
- “Here Comes All the People”
- “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant”
- “I Still Can See an Outside World”
- “Proud Evolution”
- “Drop Dead”
- “The Overachievers”
- “Goodnight Everything”
- “Too Much, Too Much”