The JangleBox

Indie, Noise, Shoegaze… Music

Widowspeak continuaron la senda de sus primeros álbumes con “All Yours” (Captured Tracks, 2015)

Molly HamiltonRobert Earl Thomas III han continuado la evolución iniciada con su estupendo álbum de debut (Almanac, 2013). All yours es un disco bello, preñado de bonitas canciones que amplían algo el espectro sonoro que por allí se apuntaba: de la Americana con rasgos fronterizo-cinemáticos, nos podemos encontrar por aquí con trazos de Pop sesentero e incluso de detallitos Shoegazers. Todo esto hace de All yours un álbum continuista con su antecesor pero a la vez le abre al dúo nuevos caminos por explorar.

“For Widowspeak, the years after the release of 2013’s Almanac and the Swamps EP were marked by departures and returns: Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas left Brooklyn for the Catskills and reunited with WoodsJarvis Taveniere, who produced their debut, when it was time to make All Yours. Using his gift for making any album he works on sound effortless, Taveniere helps them embraceAlmanac‘s velvety country and classic rock even more fully and naturally, with results that sound more fresh-faced than theatrical. Compared to the duo’s other albums, All Yours is downright restrained: “Hands” echoes the gentle drift of their debut even though it glides along on tasteful strings and keyboards instead of distorted guitars, while “Narrows” transforms the duo’s lingering shoegaze impulses into shimmering drones. However, this pared-down approach makes room forWidowspeak‘s increasing twang to emerge even more confidently on the title track, as well as for more adventurous moves like “My Baby’s Gonna Carry On,” which uses ’60s and ’70s psych-rock trappings — a “Sunshine Superman” bassline, rippling Rhodes fills, and busy percussion — in ways that sound remarkably ungimmicky. All Yours also puts the spotlight on just how much Widowspeak‘s songwriting has grown over the years; “Coke Bottle Green” is a fascinating combination of traditional country and folk structure and 21st century domesticity (“I want windows I can fill/With any life I can’t kill”). Like Fleetwood Mac, whose influence permeated Almanac, Hamilton and Thomas excel at setting heartbroken lyrics to addictively catchy melodies. All Yours is filled with painful memories lying just underneath its honeyed surface; “Dead Love (You’re So Still)” cloaks frustration with an old flame in head-bobbing hooks. Hamilton sounds as sweet as ever on these barbed, ambivalent songs, whether she’s lamenting a galaxy’s worth of emotional distance on “Cosmically Aligned” or chasing a feeling as fleeting as a high on the gorgeous “Stoned.” Nevertheless, her most thoughtful lyrics aren’t about a lover, but her relationship to other, younger women: as she sings “Further from my wilder years/I get kinder to the younger girls” over guitars that burn like a grudge, “Girls” illustrates the dance between jealousy and affection simply and brilliantly. Moments like these make All YoursWidowspeak‘s most self-assured and vulnerable album yet” (All Music)

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8 julio, 2016 Posted by | Widowspeak | Deja un comentario

Widowspeak: The Swamps (Captured Tracks, 2013)

Ciénagas

Widowspeak lanzó a finales del año pasado The Swamps, un Ep en el que de alguna manera, avanzan el que podrá ser su sonido en un hipotético segundo larga duración. Personalmente, adoro los Eps, pues en ello los grupos pueden incluir los temas justos que a lo mejor sobran en álbumes que igual tienen algo que sobra. También está la solución de incluir en ellos temas que probablemente fuesen descartes de otras sesiones, directos, o sencillamente, canciones inéditas.
The Swamps me suena un poco a solución intermedia: un poco de avance de cómo evolucionará su sonido (algo más de instrumentación, algo más de producción…), pero también algo de descartes. No sé, en The Swamps no encuentro el punto de calidez y de magia que encontraba en su álbum de debut, aquel fantástico Almanac, un disco en el que nada sobraba, y en el que la calidez y la cercanía inundaban todos sus surcos.
Echo en falta algo más de esa calidez aquí, aunque algunos cortes (Smoke and mirrors, True believerThe Swamps) son suficientes como para darle al disco más que un aprobado alto.


 

True Believer” is the first song Widowspeak recorded for The Swamps, and fittingly it’s the one that sounds closest to Almanac. (Thomas has said this EP, which Kevin McMahon also produced, leans more toward Widowspeak’s last record than their putative third LP). It opens much like “Locusts”, with a similarly note-bent but lower-pitched bloom from Thomas’ Fender Telecaster. Where the latter track was tightly coiled like a tense calm before the plague, on “True Believer” Hamilton literally lets her hair down (“tangled sheets, tangled hair”) and swoons into the romanticized slide guitar. The religious imagery on Almanac’s “Dyed in the Wool” can also be found in “True Believer”–“speak in tongues,” “shake off that devil fever,” “pilgrim lips”–but this time Hamilton tinges her turns of phrase with the vivid mysticism of the South’s voodoo culture rather than falling back on idiomatic poetry in the vein of “cut from the cloth.”
Hamilton’s lyrics “The house was a good one, but the yard was overgrown” on “Calico” are actually a good metaphor for Almanac, a fine record that still occasionally got lost on its forays into Western and Latin themes. Most of The Swamps, by contrast, rides on opening instrumental “Theme From the Swamps”, obviously a kind of mission statement for the EP. Those six creaky, twangy, back-porch rocking-chair notes prove to be a tangible yet versatile anchor for Widowspeak’s songwriting. This time, most of the genre-specific accents–the castanet rolls on “Smoke and Mirrors”, shakers rattling in the background of “The Swamps”, tambourines stalking through “Calico” like spurs on a cowboy boot–enhance what’s already there instead of distracting from it. The only weak spot on The Swamps might be “Brass Bed”, a lovely track that suffers from simply too much going on–multi-part harmonies, twinkling pianos, and “That’s Amore”-esque guitar stylings, and awkward lyrical syntax (“Find me underneath the linen/ Trying hard to get forgiven”).
Widowspeak do their best work when they take a minute to smell the sage, not necessarily when they forge ahead into new territories; and to a certain extent the band recognizes this and embraces it on The Swamps. In a recent interview, Thomas suggested that Almanac, with its big, brassy arrangements and relatively quick tempos, was an exercise in nostalgia “backlash” while their latest collection of songs takes the opposite tack. “You can’t be too nostalgic, you can’t get caught in something like that,” he said, referring to the former. “In the swamps, you feel sticky, and slowed down, and caught. And in terms of our music, we’re never like a really fast, loud band.” He’s right: Hamilton’s languorous croon will never be able to fully escape Hope Sandoval’s shadow–nor should she try–and Thomas’ arrangements will probably always owe a fair piece to the 60s’ gun-slinging theme songs of the Wild West, which have been the band’s bread and butter since Widowspeak‘s album cover re-imagined the giant spiders from Wild Wild West. Widowspeak seem to have found a home in the swamps, and now they’re inviting us in to set awhile” (Pitchfork)

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11 abril, 2014 Posted by | Widowspeak | Deja un comentario

Widowspeak: Almanac (Captured Tracks, 2013)

Uno de los álbumes con los que me he llevado una grata sorpresa en este comienzo de año ha sido este Almanac, segundo trabajo del dúo de Boston Widowspeak, con el que han llevado a cabo un desvío (no sé si definitivo o no) hacia un sonido algo más dulcificado, teñido, como ellos mismos declararon de un cierto aura de rural: “Almanac is like moving into a big old house in the woods with sheets covering all the furniture, and then taking all the sheets off.” El disco de hecho está grabado en un granero, bajo la supervisión de Kevin McMahon y el guitarrista del dúo Robert Earl Thomas.
Casualidad o no, lo cierto es que Almanac es un trabajo en el que la calma se apodera de todo el entorno del mismo. No hay ninguna estridencia aunque sí haya distorsión. Un álbum pausado, de riffs poderosos y de frases de las que calan. Una especie de cruce de caminos entre Mazzy Star y Calexico, entre Neil Young y Ennio Morricone escuchando a The Carpenters.
Personalmente, encuentro en el disco un montón de buenos temas, desde el comienzo apoteósico de Perennials, con esa introducción de aires campestres y esos hooks teñidos de trémolos que la hacen irresistibles. Dyed in the wool, Thick as thieves, Spirit is willing, Storm king son algunos de los ejemplos que ilustran ese mestizaje rural al que hacía mención. Aunque mis favoritos son temas como Ballad of the golden hour, un corte suave, con un slide absolutamente arrebatador y las voces de Molly Hamilton rozando lo erótico. Devil knows (The Cars llevados a su terreno), The dark age, Locusts o la deliciosa Minewaska, son algunas de las canciones en las que el dúo hace más concesiones al sonido más característicamente Indie.
Un trabajo muy sólido y completo. Una absoluta delicia ensoñadora propia y absolutamente recomendada para estos momentos primaverales, un paseo por las nubes. Hay quien ve en esta mezcolanza de estilos un cierto sentido de desnortamiento, pero el esfuerzo de Widowspeak por encontrar un sonido propio es más que loable, y más si lo haces paseando por las nubes.

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Widowspeak are city slickers, more accustomed to the urban jungle than the American wilderness. But with second album Almanac the duo’s headed well beyond the suburbs.
Robert Earl Thomas and Molly Hamilton – a guitarist of yawning slides and spidery rhythms; a vocalist sharing similarities with Hope Sandoval– have worked with Swans collaborator Kevin McMahon on a set that sounds every second the product of its recording environment: a 100-year-old barn.
This is instrumentally inviting; something like Beach House becoming obsessed with Neil Young’s more bucolic catalogue entries. But anyone expecting the McMahon connection – he mixed 2012’s acclaimed The Seer (in BBC Music’s top albums of said year) – to result in southern gothic tropes might come away disappointed.
Which isn’t to say that Almanac doesn’t tap into a dark side. Hamilton’s lyrics encompass shades of dread – as she wrote, thoughts of the 2012 apocalypse that never was passed through her mind. But doomsday musing is tempered by a familiarly intimate delivery.
Her vocal lines are forever hazy. Alongside the Mazzy Star singer, they may also stir comparisons with Howling Bells’ Juanita Stein. This is no problem – a beautiful voice is always a welcome presence on a record of few stylistic shifts.
Consistently comprised of Thomas’ intricate guitar work, moaning organs, understated percussion and tickled Rhodes, Almanac is methodically second-gear for the most part.
It’s an initially appealing mix, then. But it’s too easy for the listener to tune out – to the sound of passing traffic, a washing machine’s spin cycle, anything that represents a change of pace.
Devil Knows breaks into a mid-tempo stride, but feels overly routine to truly connect. Its stabbing guitar recalls Television’s Marquee Moon, if Tom Verlaine had engineered his band’s breakthrough as the soundtrack to an as-yet-unrealised True Blood.
There’s a spacious quality to Dyed in the Wool and Storm King that’d complement imagery of crackling storms over wide-open horizons. Thomas is undoubtedly a highly skilled musician, with an eager ear for mood-setting sounds.
Pretty though it certainly is, Almanac never truly transcends its set of influences. It’s accomplished, mixing studied nostalgia with current concerns, but not a standout in its field. Which has probably been concreted over by now, anyway” (bbc.co.uk)

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24 abril, 2013 Posted by | Widowspeak | Deja un comentario

   

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