Hear the words ‘hazy’ and ‘breathless’ anywhere near an American boy-girl combo with a penchant for being photographed staring wistfully into the distance, and you’re probably going to think of Beach House. Brooklynites Widowspeak do little to dismiss such associations with ‘Perennials’, the opening track to their second album Almanac. Building from a rolling drum beat and some reverb-heavy guitars before the introduction of Molly Hamilton’s soft-focus vocals, it soon sends you into the midst of a sun-tinged revelry which is all very nice, but haven’t we already heard all of this before?
Thankfully, Widowspeak are quick to show that there’s more to their bow with ‘Dyed In The Wool’, a more spritely, upbeat track with more than a nod in the direction of divorce-era Fleetwood Mac, all dramatic cymbal crashes and an ominous sense of foreboding. On the band’s first album, Hamilton’s vocals were often accompanied by sparse, hushed backing, but here on Almanac there’s a bolshier, more accomplished sound, as well as a more adventurous spirit, that’s ultimately more rewarding.
As the album’s down home title suggests, Widowspeak are also indebted to the spacey country rock that is often termed Americana, and this more expansive, outdoorsy atmosphere is probably what best sets them apart from the likes of Beach House or Melody’s Echo Chamber. ‘Ballad Of The Golden Hour’ bounces along on a beautiful melody and a hazy slide guitar line, while ‘Sore Eyes’ combines shadowy, Neko Case-style melodrama with a wonderfully spaced out chorus.
Elsewhere the duo add a straighter, poppier edge to proceedings, as ‘Devil Knows’ rides a simple two-chord shimmer over a slyly infectious chorus, before the positively anthemic ‘Spirit Is Willing’ looks to combine Hawaiian hula vibes with a classic call and response chorus. As the album draws to a close with the slow-burning psych of ‘Storm King’, you find yourself a long way from those initial impressions you had of the band.
Thanks to the similarities in vocal styles, it’s easy to compare Widowspeak with other acts around, and it’s fair to say that there’s plenty here for fans of such acts to admire. However, there’s also more here for anyone willing to look deeper, especially if you’re fond of a little country-tinged drama with your reverb and wistful vocals.
7Aaron Lavery's Score