Best Liars album? Yeah, I think so.
Real early on the song’s first track, “Scissor”, Angus Andrew sings “I’m supposed to save you now”, which is a phrase that implies all sorts of feelings and intentions, none of which are assuring. Sisterworld isn’t a particularly assuring collection of music. Even at it’s tightest, it's most anxious album to come out this year, and this was a year that felt like a slow motion nervous breakdown.
While this is an album of great sounds as much as it is of songs (holy shit, the screwdriver guitar in the middle of “I Can Still See An Outside World”), but the largest psychological component of Sisterworld is the pluralities. There is never one voice, one guitar - there are many, all slightly out of sync with one another. These are sort-of chorales, creating a sense that these songs are huge things, different from the widescreen cacophony of other Liars records. This is indicative of a rare quality in recent years, and the only album which pursued a similar point was TV on the Radio’s “Return to Cookie Mountain”, which was going for epic vistas. Sisterworld uses the same approach to get small, training a microscope on whispers and screams, all of the cacophonous shit is inside someone’s head, occasionally exploding into external rants or distracted one-way conversations. Andrew’s voice(s) is an out-of-sync internal monologue, speeding up and slowing down rhythmically and dictating the tides of these songs (once again, the vocals “I can Still See An Outside World” recall nothing less than the Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way”).
The minimalist/maximalist nature of these songs sometimes obscures how pretty a Liars song can be, but you have to assume that something like “Drip” could be sweet but is instead dominated by shuddering ambiences, and that that’s the point. The same goes for the harder stuff, “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant” is what Sonic Youth’s “Master-Dik” would sound like if it were actually a good song. That riff basically exists to make you clutch the back of your head and duck into a defensive posture. (There are heavier riffs, definitely, but few as harsh.) The Liars aren’t out to tear your legs off with a riff, that seems to be secondary to what they are doing - which is creating a mental space (a really uncomfortable but still intoxicating one) through their sound space. If these guys were out to just make riffs they wouldn’t make the choices they make, time and time again (the horns and robotic whirring at the start of “Goodnight Everything”? Not there because it sounds cool). The album closer, “Too Much, Too Much” could pass for a Spacemen 3 song, almost...if it didn’t come at the tail end of ten slabs of seasick mental deterioration. On “Too Much, Too Much”, the lilting voices finally find a structure where they sound at home, swirling around each other on the fade-out. It would be serenity...if they weren’t singing about the annihilation of self.
-Sean Witzke, 2010