Warpaint, Warpaint, Rough Trade Records
The second full-length album from Warpaint feels at first meandering, at second sublime, at third essential.
Understated production allows the vocal and instruments to lay together as lightly as sheets of tissue. ‘The record was co-produced by ‘Flood’ – the pseudonym of Mark Ellis who has also produced work by P J Harvey and Sigur Ros, – and the band’. Flood’s previous work gives this record’s overall ambience some context: he is known for atmospheric avant garde production. The influence of the Joshua Tree National Park, in which the record was conceived, is palpable in an album which retains pockets of stillness even as it rolls forwards through heartbeats and emotions.
The intro sets up the record’s direction. It is a lazy roaming jam that feeds straight into ‘Keep It Healthy’, which in turn is witchily hypnotic without being dizzying. Warpaint gives way to a seemingly reluctant dance ethic occasionally, such as in ‘Hi’ which meanders into a catch-beat rhythm and keys.
Lead single ‘Love is to Die’ sounds like eavesdropping on private blog entries: counting off concepts of love daisy petal style. Somehow nostalgic without committing to a parodic revisiting of any particular music trope.
Certainly more ethereal than predecessor records The Fool and Exquisite Corpse, Warpaint resists ephemerality, with Jenny Lee Lindberg’s solid bass providing hardy centres to the tracks. The band have said that they found The Fool suffering from “too much instrumentation”. That this record floats out of the speakers is surely a reaction against their earlier sound. What appears trivial at first listen gathers substance through closer re-listening.
‘Disco//Very‘ is the best-related track to their earlier straight-forwardness. Placing the track so far into the record (roughly at the halfway point) is a gutsy move: fans anticipating a continuation of the band’s earlier direction have a long wait before hearing this more familiar approach.
The closing tracks on the record veer into heavier territory that looms into a darker side of the obsessional-love theme featured throughout the album: “Give me more,” Theresa and Emily intone on ‘CC’. The refrain “I’m a lucky charm,” breaks through a smog of melodic interference in penultimate track, ‘Drive’.
Despite a restrained twelve tracks the record still sags a little about two thirds of the way in, but it finishes with a sturdy triptych of beautifully observed songs.