Widowspeak (Captured Tracks)
Brooklyn trio Widowspeak bored me before I hit the play button. Everything about the presentation of their full-length debut seemed too easy and, in 2011, obvious. They have all the markings of future Pitchfork hype—the disaffected press release pic, the goofy pun band name, the Brooklyn address, the comparisons to Mazzy Star. Luckily for them, though, they also have pretty good songs.
Not that opener “Puritan” is likely to have you hooked off the bat. Electric guitars grumble quietly in a poppy lo-fi palette, accentuated by that delay effect where it sounds like juice spurting from the fretboards. A drummer nearly falls asleep behind the kit, but vocalist Molly Hamilton (clearly the star of the show) and her oh-so-smoky phrases do their damnedest to find a hook worth slinging. But upbeat doesn’t suit these guys well.
After that sunny opener, the forecast quickly turns cloudy, which is a good thing. “Harsh Realms,” with its languid two-chord vamp, whammy-bent sonar pings, and sparse arrangement, is a far better frame for Hamilton’s mysterious affectations. The Mazzy Star reference is well-earned here, Hamilton elongating every syllable to its breaking point of spaciness. But there’s a palpable twang, too, echoing the brilliant Southern gothic-folk of acclaimed newcomer Jessica Lea Mayfield. Hamilton’s voice is sexy in an overtly femme fatale kinda way, but she knows these tunes would threaten to crumble without that sultriness.
“Everything looks the same,” Hamilton almost whispers on “Limbs,” a brooding acoustic piece. And she kinda has a point—there isn’t much variation throughout these 10 moody tracks, a fact that will no doubt affect this debut’s shelf-life. Widowspeak have potential worth watching, but they don’t seem to mind not standing out in a crowd.