Friday, July 8, 2011

Warpaint: The Fool

     That's it. Work experience over, so I'll be listening to a few more newer albums than I have been! For now though, I thought I'd run my ears over Warpaint's 'The Fool', which is a great little record released in the October of last year. The band is an American pop, art-rock quartet hailing from Los Angeles, with this being their debut album after a fairly successful EP. Their sound is one not easily classifiable though, hence my vague labeling. Their impressionistic style wanders into the dark and delicate at times, post-rock instrumentation off-set by the haunting vocals. A ritualistic, Wicker Man eeriness creeps into the forest of this record as well, lending itself to the unique and striking impression it leaves. Some tracks blend into others in a bored, dejected manner, and in that respect this isn't the most consistent lp out there, but what Warpaint do well, they do fantastically!
     The EP released before 'The Fool', 'Exquisite Corpse', is one much more punchy in attitude, relative to the beguiling serenity of this summer storm, whirling overhead. The tracks on this album thunder with a restrained passion, sliding down the misty window pane, obscuring the view outside. The atmospheres envelope and in many ways the character of these nine songs grips with a fascinating grasp. Take the opener, 'Set Your Arms Down'. It wanders without the direction seen on tracks like 'Warpaint', but this meandering vulnerability comes through as an innocence, soothing in nature. The vocals are nostalgic in their reverb, and in the places void of words, solemn wails and moans fill the vacuum, lamenting an overbearing loss. 'Baby' is similar, with the vocals tired and broken, prevailing like a weak, flickering flame. Folk guitars support the ballad-like lyricism and the layered sounds peel back to reveal intricate production. Frankly? Just beautiful.
     'Majesty' is great, with little experimental bleeps running through a track obsessed with child-like jealousy. Emily Kokal screams out over a sci-fi landscape "I wanted you by my side", an ominous and thought-provoking statement, like many of the lyrics on this album. Her voice falters at times, a purposeful and passionate break in the band's otherwise restrained upkeep. Her range and execution of verses though, is very human, be it highlighted by an alien strangeness apart from the usual order of things. The album itself however, isn't wholly made up of these softer tracks. 'Warpaint', a song strangely named after themselves, is conspicuously upbeat while managing to maintain the trademark delicate vocals. After a deep, clock ticking intro the melody creeps into view. The hook and chorus on this track in particular are outstanding, coaxing forth a foot-tapping and a head-nodding. It's warm bass hugs while it's constantly tense undertones contrast  together perfectly. However, these songs hint at a style I might have liked to see more of.
     'Undertow' has a nice beat as well, while 'Bees' sounds decidedly more experimental than the rest. 'Composure' has some pretty nice sampled school-children leading into the bulk of the track and 'Shadows' guitars have an enjoyable twang to them. With most of the songs now out the way, that only leaves the finisher, which seems a good enough place as any to finish this review. The said finisher, 'Lissie's Heart Murmur' is backed by a piano melody that varies the album up yet again. There is a bombast to this track's sound, a atmosphere just lining up a second lp with the lyric, "we can't go back now". This is an album haunting and brilliant in it's originality. The vocals are pitch perfect and work wonderfully well with the instrumentation and thoughtful production that's gone into 'The Fool'. It's an eerie run through an evening mist, breathtakingly stunning, with that constant danger of getting lost in it's dark, ethereal beauty. Keep your eyes and ears on Warpaint!