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What effortless pop

SISTERS is one of the amazing bands helping to christen Alma Mater's opening weekend

SISTERS mix indie rock with mainstream radio pop of the ‘80s in a profoundly pleasing way. Photo credit: Stanton J. Stephens

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It will never stop fascinating me to track how music fans' perceptions and preconceived notions change over time - with accepted truths contradicting each other with as little as a decade of time separating them. For instance, in the 2000 film American Psycho, when Patrick Bateman delivered a monologue about how he finally learned to love the music of Genesis after they abandoned the artistic ambition of their early years, in favor of blandly digestible pop, it was taken as a given that the audience would see the folly in this point of view. Genesis, we were to understand, had abandoned all shreds of individuality (starting a little after Phil Collins took over for Peter Gabriel as frontman), embracing crass commercialism in exchange for mainstream success.

What American Psycho was telling us, through the words of the status-obsessed, lunatic murderer Bateman, was that it would be silly to enjoy latter-day Genesis. In the decade or so that followed, though, indie music fans who might normally eschew anything that even feinted toward the sounds of mainstream radio hits began to embrace the wonder of pop songcraft. In what seemed like an instant, it was no longer unusual to hear up-and-coming artists flaunt influences like Hall and Oates, George Michael, Journey, and, yes, Genesis. All of these acts that were commercial darlings, but poison to serious music fans, have now emerged as totems to how difficult it is to make immaculate, catchy pop sound so effortless.

Still, it's somewhat rare to encounter a band that sounds as much like Genesis as Seattle duo SISTERS. Lead singer and guitarist Andrew Vait sounds almost eerily similar to Phil Collins, his unvarnished vocals providing a reliable anchor to songs that could have been radio hits at any point in the past 40 years. Emily Westman provides drums and keyboards, frequently playing both simultaneously, and the combined efforts of the duo produce a full-band sound that is utterly economical in its delivery of hooks. SISTERS released both their debut and sophomore albums in 2017, exploding onto the scene with a wealth of material that establishes them as a force in the Pacific Northwest scene. Their second album, Wait Don't Wait, expands on their sound in surprising ways, such as the Bee Gees-esque "Heart Beats," and the retro-futurist synth-rock of "Preface."

SISTERS will be performing in Tacoma, Friday, joined by two other titans of Seattle indie rock: Deep Sea Diver and Smokey Brights. This show is part of the opening weekend extravaganza being put on by Alma Mater, Tacoma's much-anticipated new multimedia venue. While the two bands don't share the ebullient, throwback energy of SISTERS, there's a common immediacy that exists with all of these groups. Smokey Brights have been described as making music that's reminiscent of ‘70s AM gold, though perhaps that was in the past (SISTERS may be closer to the AM gold designation, honestly). What Smokey Brights do best, it seems, is construct wily, muscular indie rock that ripples with synth sheen. The husband and wife duo of Ryan Devlin and Kim West lead the group, crafting laser-sharp songs that buzz headlong momentum. Deep Sea Diver, meanwhile, remain close to the top of the pile of the Seattle scene for lush, exquisite compositions.

While Deep Sea Diver and Smokey Brights are undeniably great bands, SISTERS taps into a primordial part of the brain that craves the simple joy of a pop song that gets in, gets out, and leaves in its place a stain on your pleasure center. Patrick Bateman may have been a psycho, but he might have been ahead of the curve when it comes to music criticism.

SISTERS, all ages, w/ Deep Sea Diver, Smokey Brights, 7 p.m., Friday, April 20, $15, Alma Mater, 1322 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma,

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