Chandra and Leigh Watson are best known for singing backup on Jenny Lewis’s 2006 solo album Rabbit Fur Coat. Lewis — the singer of Rilo Kiley and an indie-rock pinup — got all the attention, but it was the Watson Twins who gave the album its class.
The Watsons grew up in Kentucky but moved to Los Angeles in 1998, where they made a splash in the Silver Lake scene both as backup singers and, later, on their own. Early on they stuck to a fairly traditional country-folk sound, but their two albums — 2008’s Fire Songs and this year’s Talking to You, Talking to Me — are more like ’70s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter music combined with a little bit of old-school soul and heaping portion of mopey ’80s brit-rock. Fire Songs even included a cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”
That’s a lot to mix up, but when it works — as it does on the slow and sultry track “Devil in You” — it works well. Somehow, they sound even better live. It’s something like Beach House would sound like if they went back in time to Memphis in the ’60s. There’s just something special about these two sisters when they sing in harmony. When they sing together in a wordless “whoa-oh” or “woo,” somewhere back in the mix, bathed in reverb, it’s a magical sound. On “Midnight,” a Hammond organist plays counterpoint to the lead vocal and a guitarist takes an extended solo, but for the most part the backing musicians (including members of My Morning Jacket and Everest) know enough to stay out of the way of the magic.
Josh Ritter headlines.
WATSON TWINS: Belly Up, Tuesday, June 22, 8 p.m. 858-481-8140. $15; $17 day of show.