by: Heathers

The second studio album from Dublin's Ellie and Louise Macnamara, better known by their celluloid-inspired alias Heathers (a reference to the Winona Ryder and Christian Slater-starring 1988 cult classic of the same name), retains the raised, punk-folk backbone that served as the foundation for their 2007 debut, and adds a punchy, radio-ready sheen that propels each cut into the pop stratosphere with explosive results. There are few things as innately satisfying as listening to the effortless harmonizing of twins, and the Macnamaras deliver the goods with panache, punctuating each and every syllable, building wailing walls of wordless sound, and locking up like a pair of laser-guided missiles, all the while remaining almost defiantly interchangeable. Kingdom will no doubt invoke comparisons to like-minded craft pop offerings from Haim, Lorde, and most notably, Tegan and Sara, whose (successful) 2013 bid for the mainstream Heartthrob it most closely approximates, but there's a caginess to cuts like the propulsive opener "Circular Road," the thick, cello-driven "Underground Beneath," and the soaring, hymn-like closer "Flight," the latter a slow-build, labyrinthine arm-hair raiser that sounds like a 21st century update of Kristin Hersh's "Your Ghost." They apply that same sense of purpose to the album's more club-ready confections, infusing "Lions, Tigers, Bears" and "Gather Up," and the sublime, Bastille-inspired "Waiter," with a refreshing amount of emotional heft, but despite all of the sonic flirtations, they somehow manage to avoid Florence + the Machine-style melodrama, probably because even at their most despondent, they sound like girls who still just want to have fun. Heathers aren't making big pop moments by committee, their singing is from the heart, and Kingdom works not just because it's jam-packed with earworms, but because it was conjured from a well of pure, raw talent. ~ James Christopher Monger

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