The genius of Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli lies in his ability to be simultaneously soulful and sinister, blurring the line separating the crooning love man from the sexual predator. Few contemporary singers ooze as much sex appeal while touring the dark corners of the soul, a trick he turns to beguiling effect throughout the debut album from his slow-burning side project The Twilight Singers, which also features Howlin' Maggie's Harold Chichester and the ubiquitous Shawn Smith (Pigeonhed, Brad, Satchel). A gloomy and understated meditation on tumultuous love, Twilight lacks the aggressive power of Dulli's primary gig, but it's among his most graceful, unforgettable recordings. With stilted beats, burbling synths, and the complementary backing vocals of Chichester and Smith, "The Twilite Kid" sets the unsettling tone, finding the midpoint between tortured vulnerability and soulful swagger. "That's Just How That Bird Sings" is even better, as Dulli, Chichester, and Smith rotate leads—Smith's falsetto in the chorus is particularly intoxicating—to remarkable effect. The quality never really wanes throughout Twilight: "Annie Mae" recalls a lost Rod Stewart vamp (deliberately, if that title is any indication), while "Love" and the gorgeous "Into The Street" are propelled by a beautiful piano line and majestic strings, respectively. After a string of excellent and often underrated Afghan Whigs records, it's good to see that Dulli can work magic in virtually any incarnation.
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