Boyfriend and I were recently discussing what I was writing about for the Talkhouse. I told him Warpaint. He asked me if I liked the band. A seemingly simple question. But I pondered: I really like The Fool, their 2010 debut, and have seen them live twice (me = delighted both times), but can you really say you like a band when you only have one record to base that on? Surely I should say, “I like that album” before committing to “I like that band”? But after this faux-existential musing I started my multiple listens to Warpaint and can now safely say that I am officially, unequivocally, a fan of the whole thing.
I get excited about things. I get excited about films I want to see. I get excited about books I know are coming out. (Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler, please finish writing drafts and send them to me right now, thanks, love, Lauren). And I get really excited about albums of bands I care about. Warpaint are one of those bands, and their self-titled second album is one of those albums. And (spoiler alert) it didn’t disappoint. If anything, it exceeded my expectations by quite some way.
I love the feel of it. There is atmosphere. There is ambiance. The shoegaze elements of previous material are alive and well (enhanced by Flood’s production and the touches added by Nigel Godrich), exemplified through the Bat For Lashes-esque vocal of “Biggy,” the woozy, Moog’ed-up shoegaze of pre-album single “Love Is to Die,” and the synth-heavy, downtempo “Teese.” The tight, undulating rhythm section of bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and drummer Stella Mozgawa is intact, to say the least, shown to its full force on tracks like the floor tom- and rim shot-heavy “Feeling Alright,” ensuring that this album does sound like what we know Warpaint to be from their previous work, but that it is also wonderfully weird. Typical song formats are eschewed. Sounds which do not seem like they should go together; songs that don’t even seem like they should be on the same record as each other, somehow belong.
Screw keeping tracks below three minutes 30. Screw traditional song formats. Screw not using what sounds suspiciously like a cowbell (“Keep It Healthy”). Throw out the shoegaze how-to manual and run with it. “Hi” mixes r&b beats and rhythm production with an almost creepy amount of vocal delay, the harmonies in eerie fifths, and vocalist Emily Kokal channeling a twisted St. Vincent in the lead melody. Equally unexpected is the amazing “Disco // Very,” which manages to sound like Warpaint, but raised on a healthy diet of Le Tigre or vintage MIA. Theresa Wayman’s guitar in the intro of “CC” sounds like it could have been picked out of the soundtrack to the darkest Lynchian nightmare. How can all of these elements appear on one record and make complete sense? The fact that they do is a testament to individual songwriting and finesse in execution.
The final, overarching thing that I love about Warpaint is that they took just as long as they needed to put it out. One can only imagine the cries of, “But that’s career SUICIDE!” when it was announced that a follow-up to The Fool wouldn’t come out within the industry standard 12-24 months. Yet the band wrote, recorded and delivered the record on the timetable that they felt comfortable with, and I respect the hell out of that. If only there were more musicians in the world willing to be as brave and uncompromising.