This is the moodiest Warpaint record to date and at the same time their best work yet. It says something for a band that with each release i say, "This is the best thing they have done!" I know that it creates an expectation on my part that they will eventually fail to live up to. I think this is why we eventually grow out of bands -- a misstep leads to tremendous disappointment, which leads to rejection, moving on, etc.
However, i have yet to become disillusioned with Warpaint, and now i have a great record to lose myself in.
For those of you new to this band, Warpaint is an LA girl band consisting of Emily Kokal (vocals, guitar), Theresa Wayman (guitar, vocals), Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass, backing vocals), and a rotating drummer. Kokal takes lead vocals most of the time, but Wayman sings lead a bit, and all of them add nice harmonized vocals when appropriate.
I really liked their debut EP Exquisite Corpse way back in 2008, which blended post-punk, dream pop, and strong female vocals. I loved their debut LP The Fool which came out in 2010, but never got around to reviewing it here. (Brendan's note: Slacker! No Minion Treats for you...) And now we have a new record, and it is awesome.
The records starts off with a slight Intro. A low drone and slippery drums (courtesy of current drummer Stella Mozgawa) just rolling along. Then Mozgawa messes up and yells, "Oh, sorry" and the rest of the band pause a second and pick it right back up. I like the casualness of that little event. It says, "Hey, we're just playing around here, having fun in the studio". The low guitar plinking along and the keyboard drone reminds me of Film School's epic Hideout, a sort of fusion of goth, synthpop, indie rock, and shoegaze. They pack a lot into that under two minute tune, and it sets the tone for the rest of the record. This is a casual album, four friends having fun while playing with a lot of different musical influences, all in a vaguely melancholy tone.
That fascinating Intro slowly morphs into Keep It Healthy, where the vocals kick in. The voices harmonize as the guitars jangle like a reggae tune as filtered through early 1980s British post-punk. I love the groove here.
Warpaint slow it down for the delicate Love Is to Die. Mozgawa's drumming is subtle and the guitars whir lightly while the voices wail. It has a great beat and moves along nicely, guitar layers floating to the top then resubmerging. Damn good tune, one of the finest pop songs i have heard in a while.
The next track is odd. Hi starts with a bass rumble and the voice wailing away but then, inexplicably, at about 38 seconds in an echo hits the voice and an electronic beat comes in. A tinkling keyboard joins, and then at about 1:45 Hi explodes for a brief interval with loud keys, real drumming, and the band sawing away at it. During the fast moments, the keyboard seems to ebb and flow in a dub fashion, that up and down, swaying rhythm. I love the way this one grows and changes.
Shaky egg, a low drone, and a deep rumbling noise (synth bass?) start Biggy. Drums fade in, and it takes off. The voice is light and sultry here but the music is complex and layered, so it comes across like Sade singing for Tortoise. I especially like when the full band harmonizes behind the singer here. Really lovely.
Teese is light guitar and vaguely echoed voices, reminding me of the last Steffaloo record. Disco//very is the silliest song here. The bass is funky and rippling, playing over handclaps and tapped cymbals while the voices interweave. This is a goofy dance track. On the other hand, Go In is a slow jazz jam. Percussion chugs and the bass thuds slowly as the guitars and voices warble.
Warpaint really get their groove on for Feeling Alright, which has an amazing bass riff. The guitars ebb and flow over the riff, Lindberg thumping away as the guitars plink along. At the sparse moments, this sounds a lot like the latest release from The xx. But Warpaint never linger in the sparseness -- they always add in more layers and more sounds. It really works.
CC is the gothiest song here, really dark. It builds slowly, the guitars sawing and the bass rumbling before the voices join in echoed layers. It has a hint of menace in the way it progresses. Drive is a light burbling tune, the guitar plinking along, the bass subtle. But then, in the middle, it positively explodes, the vocals soar as the drums tap, the guitars tinkle, and the bass rumbles over layers of synth strings. The voice here comes close to Raphaelle Standell-Preston from Braids. This is an absolutely beautiful song that starts off unpretentiously then gets amazing.
And finally we have Son, which is built from slow plinking guitar, martial drumming, and the whole band singing lightly. A lovely end to the record.
Every time i listen to this, i am just blown away. They are doing some wonderful things here, and it is well recorded. (For the record, Flood was the producer here. He consistently does good work.) There is so much going on in the record, so many moments of joy, of beauty. I cannot recommend it enough. Go get a copy.