Music Review: Warpaint’s New Album


Carol Bowditch reviews the latest album from LA-based Warpaint, and compares it favourably to certain buzzbands from their part of the world:

Walking through London last week I was bombarded with a poster that was slapped on walls, bus-stops, tube stations and discarded to waste away on populated pavements. The picture, which has been everywhere since the end of last year, was of three attractive girls on chairs, leather and denim clad with gentle waves of baby hair grazing their shoulders. This photo, filtered in a grainy, saturated Instagram-worthy hue was of LA band Haim (said like ‘rhyme’… *sigh*), who smashed it in most End of Year lists.

After a few attempts to learn to love Haim via their debut record, I couldn’t stop a knee-jerk reaction of scrunching my face up at ever-frequent mentions from friends, blogs and crackly supermarket PA systems. I had a field day when their past as a pick-and-mix pop outfit, ‘Valli Girls’ surfaced in the press. I knew something was up with those girls from the beginning! It was their wearing jean shorts and varsity jackets together on stage and boring, frigid music. It was their perfect trio formula (one for each type of girl), they were too perky and appropriate. I hated it all.

As charts were being dominated last year by Haim, a band that to me seemed obviously created by trend forecasters and marketers, I felt jaded when faced with all female outfits. Thank goodness then for LA-bred Warpaint, a band that pricked ears back in 2008 with an unmissable slew of well-regarded tracks, like Beetles and Undertow. Their newest, self-titled release has most certainly distracted me from my Haim-fuelled disillusionment.

995051_10152127172225186_732939512_nThe quartet’s sound remains sombre and eerie, with shared vocals creating wonderful melodies, developing a deep sensual mood throughout the record. Hi introduces us to soft, echoing vocals. The trio of harmonies created by the ladies is warming, organic and extremely pleasurable for the ears as they intercept subtle percussion and fading-but-complimentary guitar and key melodies. The chorus line and emotive pining drawls in the outro of the utterly romantic Love is to Die sparks familiarity in my head. It must have been included in their Pitchfork Music Festival set, where I was equally smitten with them in the live setting.

Easing slightly away from dominant vocals for the majority of Biggie, the wicked synths take the limelight with a pacing beat. Midway through the record, Disco//very reiterates that the band have been reaching out to other genres for inspiration since their last release several years prior, with woozy vocals and a beat that gives the track a distinct 90’s RnB/trip-hop feel, following closely the reference to Biggie Smalls in the previous track.

After being treated to such an enjoyable record, I hope that all female acts will not be tarred with the same brush as Haim as we progress through 2014. I hope that the appreciation grows for those that are putting something truly ‘alternative’ out there for audiences. Warpaint are a solid act that makes unobstructed, quality music, not adhering to rising trends in the musical market but, rather, building what they were creating in 2008 and revising what makes them great, making their sounds truly fresh for longtime listeners and new fans alike.

Words by Carol Bowditch.