widowspeak Expect the Best (CD, £10.50)label: Captured Tracks
Seven years in, Widowspeak remain purveyors of mood. They’re an outfit ever preoccupied with the influence of place and the passage of time on personal experience: the way vivid memories can feel like movies or dreams. Existing in a sonic overlap of sombre indie rock, dream pop, downtrodden shoegaze, slow-core and invented ‘cowboy grunge’, Widowspeak use familiar aesthetics as a narrative device, a purposeful nostalgic backdrop for songs that ask, “How did we get here?” ‘Expect The Best’, their fourth for Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks, sees Widowspeak finding balance between opposing forces: darkness and light, quiet and loud, tension and calm. Written while singer and songwriter Molly Hamilton and lead guitarist Robert Earl Thomas were living in Tacoma, WA after previous stints in upstate New York and Brooklyn, so much moving around - specifically the move back to the place she grew up - was the catalyst for a record concerned with self-examination and the sense of dread that comes from feeling adrift (‘Dog’). Whether navigating the anxieties of the digital age (‘Expect The Best’), struggling for motivation (‘When I Tried’), or critiquing wanderlust and aspiration (‘The Dream’), the songs recognise there’s no going back in time. Hamilton’s lyrics explore the space between regret and anticipation, reconciling the desire to dwell with a need to ‘expect the best’, even as the best seems unlikely. Although Widowspeak’s previous two records - ‘Almanac’ (2013) and ‘All Yours’ (2015) - were conceived as a duo, ‘Expect The Best’ finds them playing to the specific strengths of their current touring incarnation. The album exhibits a palpable energy that reflects the band’s live shows. The band navigates dynamic changes with subtlety and restraint; the nine tracks brim with both wide-eyed optimism and resigned melancholy. Their usual palette of dusty guitars and angular twang are still front and centre but now with a 90s homage, even if abstractly. It’s their heaviest record to date, but never loses the sense of intimacy Widowspeak are known for.
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