By Dave Bertram
While there is nothing unconventional about Plum, the end result is arguably Widowspeak’s best record to date.
While Robert Earl Thomas and Molly Hamilton’s fifth record as Widowspeak doesn’t break new ground, it shouldn’t be used as a lazy stick to beat them with, as is too often the case for the multitude of artists that channel their song writing through guitar-led instrumentation.
Innovation is to be held in high regard, sure. But good songcraft shouldn’t be quickly dismissed if the former is absent. Neither must it always search for new meaning in our social, economic and political structures, and create new ways to convey them – it is often born purely from the desire to address our own feelings through those well-trodden paths our ears have become so accustomed.
Plum – the record’s title and opening track – is the epitome of this. Rambling softly and atmospherically on the same mid-tempo wave of light guitars Kurt Vile rode on Walking on a Pretty Day, Hamilton’s glimmering delivery tackles her desire to be more comfortable and casual with thoughts she tends to avoid. ‘I feel nothing, I feel dumb; You’re a peach, and I’m a plum,’ she weaves around Thomas’s airy lead guitar.
Sounding very much like spring in the sun, the album’s first half is littered with the four supple, bright and breezy singles. On The Good Ones, Hamilton’s chorus falsetto harmony delivers the positive sentiment of the lyric perfectly, while on Breadwinner – one of the record’s standouts – she pleas for the other half to lay off the grindstone in the same manner Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval would have done.
The second half leaves the brighter pop behind for a darker, more reverb heavy turn. Uneasy bass and guitar lines lead the way on Amy, providing the repetitive, clingy choruses and cyclical riffs of a certain more successful American dream-pop duo. The more electronic-minded folk of Jeanie is achingly beautiful while closer Y2K delivers a piano-led ballad which embodies the record’s overarching sentiment: ‘I could save all my money, I could spend it all. Pay to climb a mountain, and fall.‘
Finishing as it began, grasping for assurance and rolling in self-doubt, Widowspeak have produced a great record – and arguably their best. And they’ve done it with plenty of hushed vocals, hazy, shoegaze guitars and some straight beats – who’d have thought?
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