The Watson Twins: Talking to You, Talking to Me, in "Nothing Not New"

Welcome to "Nothing Not New," a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

Artist: The Watson Twins

Title: Talking to You, Talking to Me
Release date: February 9, 2010
Label: Vanguard

Never has a 12-song, 39-minute record seemed sooo long. The Watson Twins, who made their name a few years back in a collaboration with Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, have a new record that just hits a brick wall somewhere in the middle and never again picks up any momentum. It's a shame, too, because the first few songs on Talking to You, Talking to Me show a lot of promise. 

Initially, I really expected a lot of boring indie-folk but was pleasantly surprised that The Watson Twins (Chandra and Leigh) are taking a stab at vintage soul. And to some extent, they succeed, especially when they let the band take over (the Mick Taylor-esque guitar solo during the six-minute blues waltz "Midnight" is the highlight of the record). The two sisters have strong voices but not enough grit to send their exercises in soul to transcendent level. The other thing that I'm not crazy about regarding The Watson Twins is how similar to each other their voices are. It doesn't do a lot for their harmonies and it's nearly impossible to tell which twin is singing lead on which song.

In the grand scheme, though, that's minor quibbling because, in the end, they are talented singers. The problem lies in the material. The first four songs? Solid. Would make a great EP (like what the Cold War Kids did earlier this year). The fifth song, "Savin' You," is an okay Wilco-influenced pop tune. Then, Talking to You, Talking to Me heads south in boring indie-folk land, and the final seven songs just drag on interminably. The songs eventually become indistinguishable from each other and bear absolutely resemblance to the first half of the record. It's as if Chandra and Leigh came up with the soul/R&B idea too late in the game, after their recording budget was nearly tapped out, to record an entire set of those songs. 

Best song: "Harpeth River" and the aforementioned "Midnight"
Rotation: Songs 1 through 4 -- heavy; songs 5-12 -- never.
Deja vu: My parents' Helen Reddy LPs. 
I'd rather listen to: Charlotte Gainsbourg's excellent IRM
Grade: C-

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