Music Reviews

Widowspeak Almanac

(Captured Tracks) Rating - 6/10

The term dream pop dates back to the 1940s, where the term was used to describe the use of soothing vocals and dream like qualities in pop music. In contemporary music, the term is used to describe the likes of Beach House, Bat for Lashes, or pretty much any band that has been featured on Pitchfork. The term may be used a bit excessively now, due to the tendency to label any act fronted by a female as dream pop. Sure, given the opening, it would be cliché to have Widowspeak fall under the same umbrella term. Rather than doing so, lets call them a twangy, folk-rock-driven take on dreamy pop music. The band’s second full-length, Almanac, holds true to that definition.

A Brooklyn duo by way of Tacoma, Washington, the pair made waves with their self-titled album, a country-twang marriage of Molly Hamilton’s airy voice, matched with the reverb soaked guitar picking of Robert Earl Thomas. Following suit from their self-titled, Almanac plays like the soundtrack to a sun-drenched afternoon spent in a grassy field. The album is playful and has all the qualities of shoegaze, but with that country twang that She & Him has trademarked. It leaves an indelible hold on you, as Hamilton’s voice is full of life; with each hum and croon, you find yourself buying into her warm vocal embraces. There is an honest feel to Almanac, too. It is not overly produced and really feels like a fresh take on Americana.

Almanac opens with Perennials, a sprawling opener that oddly comes off as a weak point in the record. The songs grows from a soft hum to dueling guitars that overpower Hamilton’s voice, and ultimately leads nowhere. Not that it's a bad song, but it feels strangely discounted to the rest of the album. More notable is the follow-up track, Dyed in The Wool, which makes use of swooping guitar riffs that help to complement Hamilton’s melody and not drown her out. The arrangement in the song is very favorable to anyone who likes the classic verse, chorus, verse format. Thomas’ soft strumming leads Hamilton into a soulful harmonization. Midway through the record comes a short instrumental interlude, Almanac, that leads beautifully into the album’s standout single Ballad of the Golden Hour. The track truly captures that warm and fuzzy vibe of a 70s power ballad, but without the cheesy trappings of such a comparison. It’s just strictly a catchy song. Hamliton’s chorus, It isn’t over, til its over, will again have you hooked in her embrace. In Spirit is Willing, Thomas kicks up the use of echo and reverb to give the track a 60s soul sort of feel, complete with the tape delay guitar riff during the chorus.

Overall, Almanac is a good follow up that helps cement the band’s holding in the new age of dreamy folk rock. The album flows effortless from track to track, despite the opening track feeling a bit separated from the rest of the album. Its warm and sunny demeanor has me looking forward to summer already.