Album Review: Warpaint – Heads Up

By on Thursday, 22nd September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Warpaint Heads Up album coverHaving just passed their 12th year anniversary as a band, with two previously released studio albums including their critically acclaimed self-titled second album from 2014, these girls need no introduction. However, with their third album out in less than 24 hours, I suppose it won’t hurt to shout out… Fully female L.A. based dream pop four-piece Warpaint are set to release their eagerly awaited third studio album ‘Heads Up’, due out tomorrow on Rough Trade Records. In announcing the album, the girls released an accompanying single, ironically titled ‘New Song’ back in August (read my review here).

After an interview in NME surfaced in March 2015 stating that Warpaint didn’t want to do another album, fans thought this day would never come, especially as the statement was backed up by the band taking somewhat of a hiatus to work on their own solo projects throughout the whole of 2015. During which time, bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg released a solo album titled ‘Right On’, reviewed by Carrie back here. After regrouping in early 2016, not just with each other but also with former producer Jacob Bercovici (who produced their 2009 debut EP ‘Exquisite Corpse’), the band wasted no time. By May of this year, the record was done and what an album it truly is.

‘Heads Up’ explores a mature side of Warpaint, and in ways previous efforts lacked. Rather than providing a sonic overload within each song, the quartet managed to simplify their approach to song writing, which gives a lot more time and space to absorb the sweet vibes their providing . This approach is apparent when listening to the album opener ‘White Out’. If you listened to the bass, guitar and drums in isolation, each hint at totally separate directions to the next, with very subtle connections to each other within note choices and rhythmic patterns. But when taken as a unit, they work perfectly together.

The guitar is the constant in this case, taking somewhat of a backseat role following its introduction. As the bass and drums dance around it with rather busy yet poppy patterns, Kokal’s vocals sprinkle the track with an equally upbeat topline produced by her imperfectly sensual vocal tone. The bass specifically gives the impression that it’s locking with the vocal rhythm more so than the drum pattern, which, although is quite rare in pop, it pays off and helps strengthen the top line. The drums within ‘White Out’ have a higher level of complexity, ironic given that for a lot of beginning writing sessions for the album Stella Mozgawa wrote her parts on sample pads and drum machines, due to an injury that left her unable to physically play. With this in mind we must applaud her, every pattern is played for a reason. The ghost notes aren’t for flair, they add that extra burst of movement to the track, whilst the off beat, dynamic contrasts on the hi-hats keep the listener hooked from start to finish.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1BqwONm4TE[/youtube]

‘By Your Side’ showcases what we know and love about Warpaint’s blended voices, an unconventional style of harmony in today’s pop music. The girls sing about what sounds like being in a relationship with a cheater, but with a darker, slightly sinister twist. The lack of repetition within the music and a topline that’s shared between two or more members causes the focus of the song to wander, a purposely unclear melody used to great effect. The track oozes a creepy, ‘you fuck with us, we’ll fuck with you’ side Warpaint unseen until now.

Further down the album, tracks such as ‘So Good’ and title track ‘Heads Up’ could easily be considered modern day alt-pop gems. The diatonic harmony within provides an easy to grasp understanding of the music that, combined with the fun, poppy grooves, gives both of these numbers commercial appeal. The focus towards electronic elements and the vocals sway these tracks, and the record for that matter, away from being so heavily guitar orientated, the way ‘The Fool’ and ‘Warpaint’ were. Lindberg put it best, by describing the new material as “an evolution of our band. It sounds like a mature version of Warpaint”. The ‘get in, get to the point and get to the next track’ approach of ‘Heads Up’ as an album is a great mark of their newfound professionalism.

Underestimating how far these four will go to provoke various emotions within a record would be a mistake. ‘Dre’, aside from being somewhat of an ode to influential American hip-hop producer Dr. Dre, is one that physically and sonically takes you by surprise eight songs into the album. Following the deeply emotive ‘Don’t Let Go’, ‘Dre’ has a huge, industrial sounding drum part that paves the way for an eerily beautiful, long-held chord progression that never seems to rest. With the pads acting as the foundations for the harmony, it leaves the window completely open for all remaining elements to create a sonic picture of what it would be like if Dr. Dre collaborated with Warpaint.

Easily Warpaint’s most diverse effort to date, ‘Heads Up’ shows these ladies are equally at home with abstract, avant garde sounds (‘By Your Side’) and poppish new wave (‘So Good’). The new rule of no overthinking works fully in their favour, which in turn gives us a clearer view into the true soul of Warpaint.

8/10

Heads up! ‘Heads Up’ is due out tomorrow, the 23rd of September, on Rough Trade Records. If you’re as excited about it as I am, you’ll already have it on pre-order. Warpaint are currently on tour in the U.S., which will be followed by with a short string of dates in UK and Europe. Find out whether they’re coming to you and get your tickets through this link. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Warpaint, go here.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required
 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us