Review Summary: Shimmering psychedelic post-punk to get lost into.
While Bethany Cosentino and Nathan Williams (of Best Coast and Wavves respectively) hallmarked their Los Angeles summers with scrappy, pointed teenage sensibilities, Warpaint’s buzz has been steadily growing in the cold currents of those Pacific Californian beaches since 2009’s Exquisite Corpse EP
put them on the map. The EP was a force to be reckoned with and it didn’t take too long before it earned them spots as standard fixtures on just about every buzz blog out there; an all-girl quartet armed to the teeth with airy psychedelic post-punk jams, not the least of which the hype-igniting “Billie Holiday”, a song that stuffed Smokey Robinson into something Cat Power would’ve dreamily recorded if she was a member of Mazzy Star. Though it lasted only five songs, a supporting slot on a nationwide tour with fellow sensual slow-jammers The XX followed and it did little to keep the aura from growing. The kicker might just be that their hotly-anticipated full-length album stream is sponsored by none other than the internet’s self-proclaimed Hype Machine.
The buzz was never anywhere near delirious but for a band who have seen the likes of Red Hot Chili Pepper Josh Klinghoffer and actress Shannyn Sossamon come and go as members, as well as producer credits to John Frusciante on the EP and allegedly Siouxsie Sioux among the most famous contributors here (though headed by Tom Biller, the man behind Liar's recent Sisterworld
), it doesn’t seem likely that pressure or fame cast an unfamiliar shadow on their writing process. And regardless, their poise and confidence on stage and eloquence in interviews suggest they’re the type of people who wouldn’t exactly crumble under the spotlight anyway. The Fool
reflects this show of character, taking its expectations in full stride and channeling their biting, layered harmonies into a thrillingly murky and opaque forward momentum.
These are songs with a quiet flair about them - sharp, sinister and constantly in motion – while they leave much more to be discovered than they may present on initial listens. They unravel with each shivering chord of opener “Set Your Arms Down”, the translucent vocal harmonies of “Undertow” and every jarring piano key of “Lissie’s Heart Murmur”. The most immediately beautiful is the song least like the others, “Baby”, a naked, stunningly sung ballad that resonates with a tremendous desolate energy. Whether it’s self-awareness or intuition, Warpaint play to their strengths (and they have many) and each song seems to genuinely hum with ominous, melancholic force. The eponymously titled “Warpaint” is the best example of that, in its relentless motility (particularly that hypnotizing stand out riff – Therese Wayman and Emily Kokal’s guitar work deserves a lot of praise) and when they sing, “The world is bursting open” you get that eerie feeling you might just fall in.
Of all their qualities though, the most staggering of their weapons is their most unassuming: The Fool
is, for an album shrouded in such shimmering density, strikingly intimate. You could sooner call these jams than they are songs, in the sense that they develop and linger in a style more typical of psychedelia than pop music (“Yeah, we definitely recommend listening to the new album after smoking. It's the best.” – Emily Kokal) and you wouldn’t bet against glazed eyes and churning stomachs amongst the audience of their reportedly mesmerizing live shows. All in all, this is a determinedly assured debut record and one that could herald its masterminds as the eminent girl-band of 2010 and certainly as one of the most exciting new bands around.