If your knowledge of the duo formerly known as Black Swan begins and ends with Rabbit Fur Coat—Chandra and Leigh Watson’s alt-country effort with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis—you’d be forgiven for expecting their debut full-length to evoke the second coming of the McGarrigle Sisters. Instead, Fire Songs is a dreamy, harmony-drenched study in the future of folk-rock.
The pair specializes in atmospheric love songs, sonically mirroring a less emotive Natalie Merchant with understated vocals that are both subtly sly and demure. While the calling-down-the-heavens slow dance of “Sky Open Up” and clear-eyed lament of “Bar Woman Blues” belie traces of traditional stomp and steel, it’s the horn section of “Map to Where You Are” and the crashing strings on the gorgeous, building “Fall” that best exemplify the Twins’ range. Even a sweetly seductive cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” seamlessly blends into the starry swirl underlying its fellow lullabies.
If Rabbit Fur Coat was an errant cowgirl’s night of blowing off stream in a bar, Fire Songs is a gentle comedown preceding some much-needed rest. Lewis’ autobiographical purge may have put them on the radar, but unlike their collaboration-reliant cohort, the Watsons prove themselves capable of creatively striking out all on their own … together.
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