Back to Music


Seattle duo SISTERS makes infectious indie pop look effortless

SISTERS sound radio-ready in the best way possible. Photo credit: Facebook

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

There's a number of iconic scenes in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman - the power broker/serial killer with an immaculately polished veneer, played by Christian Bale, who wisely modeled his performance after Tom Cruise - delivers impassioned monologues about middle-of-the-road pop stars. Bateman extolls the artistry of Huey Lewis, Whitney Houston and Phil Collins. In all of these speeches, Bateman makes it clear that he only truly started appreciating these artists after their work became more homogenous and less risky. Opportunistic attempts at mainstream accessibility would appeal to a psychopath trying to go unnoticed in normal society, after all.

The underlying joke about a man being obsessed with such patently uncool music, I think, plays differently depending on the year in which you're watching the movie. In indie music circles, which can be filled with some snobby people (myself included), the relationship one has to mainstream-sounding, crowd-pleasing music can change over time. It used to be that bands that made challenging music were intrinsically more valuable than bands that aimed at reaching the largest audience. Catchy hooks could even be verboten to some.

But, trends change, and after years of hipsters ironically appreciating artists like the ones that Patrick Bateman loves, it seems we've come to what I'm tentatively estimating to be a post-ironic age for indie music. There are a lot of bands out right now that make music that could easily be slapped onto the radio without really making any changes. With the aversion to accessibility having been squelched, bands like SISTERS have been allowed to bloom, and I couldn't be happier about it.

This isn't to say that SISTERS won't be the coolest band you'll learn about, this week. Writing songs that are positively festooned with hooks and ear-worm melodies is no easy feat, and SISTERS accomplish that, track after track, with an infectious sense of fun that's impossible to resist. And, while a lot of music that, historically, makes its way to the top of the charts and ceaseless radio rotation feels calculating, one gets the sense that SISTERS are doing what comes naturally to them, and are just as delighted to hear their music as you are. This is pop music, though freed from the staid, milquetoast pop that so frequently invades the zeitgeist.

The Seattle duo of Andrew Vait and Emily Westman had different stylistic approaches to music, before teaming up for SISTERS, with Westman being largely a percussionist in others' projects, and Vait being a folky singer-songwriter. As a solo artist, Vait sounds like Paul Simon; in SISTERS, his voice comes nearer to Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel, though that could be a reflection of the ‘80s pop gloss that they lather over their songs. In reductive terms, SISTERS make music that resembles a canoodling session featuring Collins, Gabriel, Simon, and more current party-starters like Scissor Sisters or Passion Pit. The old and new, the hokey and visceral, swirl together in an undulating mass of vibrant ear candy.

Above all else, there's a warmth to the music of SISTERS. In anticipation of the release of their latest album, Drink Champagne, two singles have been released: "Trails" and "Buck." Both of these songs are smothered in charm, just ebullient pieces of pop songwriting that sound instantly familiar, like a pat on the back from an old friend. It's thrilling to hear two artists who are so expertly attuned to their craft that their fantastic achievements seem effortless. In the end, this is what good pop music does so well: making the act of drawing in hordes of listeners seem not only natural, but expected.

SISTERS, First Night Tacoma, 9:15 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, admission w/ Button, Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway,

Read next close


'Coast to Cascades'

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search