Release Date: Aug 9, 2011
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
‘Widowspeak’ is a term with multitudinous reference points, one that sends down roots in all directions: the obvious pun referring back to the sensuality of language, the presence of death in that language itself (both particularly and inherently), the treachery and danger of the natural world, a solitude that is defined as feminine with its own characteristic pains and sensualities. On that final note, cf. the most prominent earlier usage of the term in the world of popular music, Lydia Lunch’s recording and publishing company (and the compilation of the same name).
Widowspeak may be a trio from Brooklyn, but on their self-titled debut record they sound more like the results of a dark Southern California night spent conjuring up the spirit of Mazzy Star. A creeping darkness and unsettlingly sweet gothic tone to their simple and direct sound call that band to mind. Vocalist Molly Hamilton has a definite Hope Sandoval whisper and halting croon to her voice as well.
It usually takes years of practice and several albums for bands to reach the crestfallen state Brooklyn trio Widowspeak showcase on their debut. Here, the music's poignant rush came quickly: We're told their debut single "Harsh Realm" was recorded after the band played a total of six shows. The fatalistic croon of singer/songwriter Molly Hamilton has already garnered plenty of Hope Sandoval comparisons.
Given the fact that we’re constantly bombarded by images on a daily basis, it’s fitting that bands are taking a visual approach to their sound. Contemporary signifiers like “cinematic,” “hazy,” and “shimmering” are thrown around by critics, fans, and the musicians themselves, sometimes ad nauseam. But that visual/auditory melding isn’t always just a cheap copy point.
Amidst all the heartache and lyrics from a forlorn lover, Widowspeak has crafted one gorgeous debut. The Brooklyn trio’s self-titled full length drifts along, immersing listeners in a dark spiral of dejection and heartbreak. Yet, their brand of hazy music-making somehow keeps the album from being an entirely depressing affair. Widowspeak strips away the reverb and noise that can tarnish recordings and focuses instead on haunting simplicity.
Essentially an Americana glo-fi jangle combo – think slow-moving 90s act Mazzy Star with weaker vocals and limited compositional skills – Brooklyn-based Widowspeak release their self-titled debut consisting specifically of a dreamy vintage sound using stripped-down drumbeats, delicately placed guitar and at times channelling 50s jukebox pop. All of this is a lovely gift to the ear however too many of the melodies are simply dull and forgettable, a problem exacerbated by the fact vocalist/guitarist Molly Hamilton’s uneventful smoky eyes-half-closed vocals start to sound emotionless and limiting upon repeated listens, and the basic sad-girl-singing-over-minor-chord-strum template growing tiresome in an awful hurry. The album does have one great strength: Guitarist Robert Thomas’ solid grasp of textures, and with swirling feedback and reverbed guitar tones, displays an ability to create atmospheres via folk picking, flawless lullaby arpeggios and harmonics, warm reverbed bent notes and intelligent interplay creating an end product far superior to the actual songs.