As is the case with a lot of people in my generation, I’ve never really aligned with any one music scene. My listening habits are, frankly, fucking bizarre and so the most exciting music discoveries I make are of artists who make music that indicate they’ve got similarly odd listening habits. Stumbling across Sisters recently, I felt an immediate connection with them for this reason– their debut EP Diamonds of Gold is musical hopscotch, a flurry of influences and stylistic tangents that allows them to full show off their impressive technical skill but is too fun to ever be bogged down in technicality. I obviously wasn’t present during the recording of Diamonds, but it wouldn’t surprise me if as much time was spent debating which facet of the band’s sound should get the spotlight next as actually recording.
Diamonds is one of those debuts that works overtime to introduce you to the sound of the band, not just because this is a brand new band you’ve never heard before, but because the range of the band’s sound makes it necessary to introduce you to their various personalities carefully for fear you might get the audio equivalent of the bends. But what makes it all the more impressive is that Sisters pack the epic scale of a full on orchestra but they’re just a duo, with Emily Westman functioning as a triple threat vocalist, percussionist and keyboard player while Andrew Vait hops between keyboard and mostly supporting vocal duties (though he does get the spotlight in a big way on the EP’s closer “Buzzard”). Westman unsurprisingly has the Seattle Rock Orchestra in her credits, but both her and Vait have resumes that match their musical restlessness– Vait’s bio on his site is more accurately an essay on the subject. The EP even bravely introduces itself with the fitful “Green,” a chaotic assemblage of harmonies and counter-melodies and disjointed rhythms that brings to mind prime era Fiery Furnaces. But it’s telling that the very next track, “Back 2 U” is a relaxed, futurist R&B number. There is no settling to be had here.
The casually seductive cool of “Back 2 U” is even at odds with the band’s visual aesthetic– their publicity photo looks like a reference to that iconic cover of Sex Criminals after all– making for a pointed contrast to whatever expectations you may have had based on their online presence, album art or the preceding track. The band’s purpose boils down to keeping you on your feet, both in terms of expectations and actual dancing. Or maybe a line from “Chickens Fatten” expresses it better: “The lack of point/Might be the point.” Outside of a mission statement, “Chickens Fatten” also expands on the aloof, wondrous innocence of the band’s sound, too, with its Charlie Brown cartoon piano line and Westman building up a choir of vocal doubles, all sounding wide eyed and bushytailed. There’s some St. Vincent orchestral funk to “Chickens Fatten,” particularly in the juxtaposition between the rhythmic awkwardness of the piano line and bongos and the breathy confidence of the vocal. But mostly it’s the sound of a band enjoying the thrill of making music.
On the closing half of the album, Sisters unabashedly air out the classic rock end of their influences, with “We’re Mean” twisting ELO synth grandeur into art pop while “Buzzard” could feasibly pass for a Phil Collins track you refuse to admit you love. Both tracks are less breezy than what comes before, and “Buzzard” even veers dangerously close to passing the five minute mark, but Sisters never lose sight of the inherent fun of their sound or the excitement of exploring different audio paths, letting the music lead the band and listener both to unexplored territory. Maybe over the length of an album it would be exhausting without focus, but Sisters’ embrace of the erratic works well within the limited confines of a five track EP. Diamonds of Gold is unpredictable and indecisive, but it’s the better for it, and anyone else who can’t be tied down to any one genre will find plenty to love with it.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover