In the 1970s, perhaps no act embodied soft rock’s pristine sonics and sentimental bent more than the Carpenters. The combination of Richard Carpenter’s meticulous arrangements and instrumentation and the mellifluous voice of his younger sister, Karen, led to a string of hits, starting in 1970 with the orchestra-kissed “(They Long To Be) Close To You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” The Connecticut-born siblings showed early aptitude for music: Richard started playing piano at age eight, and Karen was a talented drummer, leading to both of them studying music in college. The duo soon turned professional, debuting in 1969 as Carpenters with a haunting cover of The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride,” the first of many to highlight the low-reaching range of Karen’s rich contralto voice. From there, Richard and Karen honed their craft, taking inspirations from jazz (“All I Can Do”), country (“Top of the World”), and space pop (“Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft”). The pair’s career was cut short in 1983 after Karen’s death due to complications from anorexia, but the Carpenters’ legacy and catalog have amassed growing respect over time. The duo became an unlikely source of fascination for a younger generation of alt-rockers, who related to their melancholic themes. A 1994 tribute album, If I Were a Carpenter, featured Sonic Youth, Matthew Sweet, and Sheryl Crow covering their songs, and the longing “Merry Christmas Darling” has become an annual seasonal staple.