Sometimes people do their best work when they step outside their comfort zones. Widowspeak‘s latest release, Almanac, out January 22 on Captured Tracks, is evidence of just that. Its sound is the product of a few creative people veering just slightly off course. And the album is better for it.
The band’s 2011 self-titled debut was a fair album that got fair reviews. On it, Widowspeak are rickety, restrained and reverb-drenched, inviting countless comparisons to Mazzy Star, and drawing on many of the same lush and washed-out rock and shoegaze references that seem to be making the rounds in recent years.
Their latest album, Almanac, starts off in very much the same way, but it ends with a far more distinct personality. Thanks to a few key choices, they manage to avoid becoming just another could-have-been accessory to more inventive reverb-loving contemporaries like Beach House, Beach Fossils and Warpaint.
Something happens around the half-way point of Almanac, just as the song “Ballad of the Golden Hour” kicks in, sounding a little like a melancholic and driving version of The Cardigans, only with a lot more teeth and a little less ornamentation. It’s the sound of a band beginning to find its voice.
From there on out, the album seems to take on a new life. Everything they do leaves behind their past legacy of fair-but-middling navel-gazer dirges and pedestrian Chris Isaak covers. Suddenly, they seem to sound like themselves.
The most frequently repeated part of the Widowspeak story is that singer Molly Hamilton was initially frightened to death of performing, only pretending to sing during rehearsals and recording vocals only when no one else was around…