Posts Tagged ‘Widowspeak’

At the core of Widowspeak’s allure is the creative chemistry between singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas, perennially anchored by warm, expansive arrangements, references to 90’s dream pop, 60’s psychedelia, and a certain unshakeable Pacific-Northwestness. It’s comfortable, lived-in: humble in structure, heavy on mood.

“The stone that’s buried: what the fruit is for.” So goes the title track from “Plum”!, Widowspeak’s fifth album. The line serves as an apt analogy for the record itself: the self-aware sweetness that the band employs to deliver the seed of a harder, sharper idea. Singer Molly Hamilton coats wry observations in a voice as honeyed as the sun-ripened fruit, and Widowspeak have always made a bitter pill much easier to swallow. From its opening strum, there’s a palpable warmth and familiarity to the music even as it hints at darker truths below the surface, questions about inherent worth. What value and meaning do we assign ourselves, our time, and how do we spend it?

With Plum, the song writing partnership rooted in the creative rapport between Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas continues to expand on shared visions, delving deeper into what was always there: dusty guitars, ear-worm melodies, warm expansive arrangements. Each entry to their catalogue has marked a subtle reimagining of Widowspeak’s sound, though perennial points of reference remain the same: 90’s dream pop, 60’s psych rock, a certain unshakeable Pacific-Northwestness. Speaking to the timeless feeling of each, the albums continue to be discovered well beyond their respective PR cycles, made beloved by new listeners through word of mouth.

More akin to the sunny spaciousness of “All Yours” (2015) than the darker, denser “Expect the Best” (2017), “Plum” carries a sense of unhurried self-awareness. It feels comfortable and lived-in: humble in structure, heavy on mood. Perhaps that came taking time off from the touring grind, instead working full-time jobs and settling into the rhythm of daily life in a small upstate New York town. Plum was recorded over a handful of weekends last winter by Sam Evian (Cass McCombs, Kazu Makino, Hannah Cohen) at his Flying Cloud studio in the Catskills, and was mixed by Ali Chant (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, Perfume Genius). In addition to Hamilton (vocals, guitar) and Thomas (guitars, bass, synth), it features instrumental contributions by Andy Weaver (drums), Michael Hess (piano), and Sam himself (bass, synth). Plum nestles into the band’s canon like it was always there, but with new textures coming to the fore, like the polyrhythmic pulse of “Amy” and “The Good Ones”, or the watery, Terry Riley-influenced track “Jeanie”

The broader themes that run through Plum are almost eerily prescient for the time of its release, written and recorded in the eve of a global pandemic. Hamilton couldn’t have predicted the relevancy of mesmerizing track “Breadwinner”, with its central analogy of bread as time as money, or the song’s yearning pleas to a partner who’s “always bringing their work home”. And on “Even True Love”, Hamilton acknowledges the imminent loss of those closest to us: “In the deepest wells, in the shallow sick/I can see you shaking in the great unknown/Will you learn to live with what you chose?/Even true love, you can’t take it with you”. They’re songs for our time to be sure, but Plum reckons with existential pain that was always there, that will endure well beyond social distancing and into our collective new reality.

Still, Plum isn’t weighed down by crushing angst. The approach is humble and frank, like a friend sharing intimacies. These are songs made to be listened to, enjoyed. “Money” is particularly hypnotic, built around a repeating, cyclical motif that serves as both skeleton and body. “Will you get back what you put in?” Hamilton asks over an insistent guitar riff. The line is delivered with a knowingness that transcends its surface critiques of late-stage capitalism, asking both herself and the listener whether this is, in fact, the world we want to live in. A world that increasingly sees monetization as the greatest goal, even at such great expense to ourselves, and especially our future. What does it mean to contribute? And what is the cost of “selling out”?

Hamilton cites a crisis of meaning as being central to the origins of Plum. “I didn’t want to write for a long time; I didn’t even really want to listen. I stopped believing in ‘music as a career’ and the distorted idea of what it had become in my mind: building and projecting a personality, promoting it, selling it. Losing that sense of purpose… it made me question my own value, usefulness.” She looked methodically for ways to reframe those thoughts about overconsumption, and found inspiration in the writings of MFK Fisher, in the Danish film “Babette’s Feast” and David Byrne’s “True Stories”, and in YouTube playlists of pop songs remixed to sound like they’re being played in abandoned malls. She also found a book about wabi-sabi principles by Leonard Koren (who founded WET magazine): “So much of it is centered around allowing things to be what they are, and just noticing. I tried to notice more, and I think those observations became the songs.”

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Plum is an album that navigates the spaces between the lesser emotions of modern life. From the creeping dread that “things are getting worse” to the resigned but sanguine recognition that “no one is old, nothing is young,” Hamilton’s lyrics speak to the unique turmoil of anyone who creates as their work, who must somehow survive off such “fruits of their labour.” With its release, Widowspeak have brought something into the world that seems to know its own worth, even as it wonders aloud about what is to come. Like the wabi-sabi tenant that lead to the song that became the album, all things are devolving to, or evolving from, nothingness.

“You’re a peach and I’m a plum.” 

Their fifth album “Plum” was released 28th August

Fresh off the release of their critically-acclaimed fifth album “Plum”, Widowspeak welcome the new year with “Honeychurch”, a brand new EP. Like the 17th-century tile on its cover, Honeychurch is a repurposed artifact. Its title, a nod to E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View, was originally a working title for Plum – it felt in line with the album’s thematic considerations of class, relationships, and generational ties, but was ultimately set aside. Still, these considerations swirled beneath the surface, and as Plum’s reflections on work and worth grew more pertinent by the day, singer Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas felt there was more to explore.

They began with what was already there, toying around with a new take on Plum single “Money”. The resulting track is a pared-down, introspective version, with a foreboding synth tone that asks us to spend more time with its prompt: “will you get back what you put in?” Hamilton and Thomas have also added to their repertoire of expertly crafted cover songs, recording a playful, Nancy Sinatra-esque take on R.E.M. ‘s “The One I Love” and a rich, expansive version of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet”. Revisiting a discarded Plum demo about blood ties gave rise to the slow-burning “Sanguine”, while EP closer “Honeychurch” is an ambient epilogue that leaves space for deeper reflection.

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Recorded at their apartment in Brooklyn and mixed and mastered by Jamie Harley (The Jesus and Mary Chain, Mogwai), Widowspeak’s new collection delivers homespun intimations with polished precision. The questions posed on Plum still reverberate, and Honeychurch leaves space for us to hear them better. 

Molly Hamilton: vocals, guitar on “Sanguine”
Robert Earl Thomas: guitars, bass, percussion, etc.

“Money (Hymn)”, “Sanguine” and “Honeychurch” written by Widowspeak
“The One I Love” written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe
“Romeo and Juliet” written by Mark Knopfler

Releases January 22nd, 2021

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Widowspeak shared the title track from their upcoming album, Plum, due August 28th via Captured Tracks. “Plum,” the third single featured on the album, was shared with an accompanying video. It follows singles “Money,” and “Breadwinner,”

The duo features singer/songwriter Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas. Plum was recorded last winter by Sam Evian at his Flying Cloud studio in the Catskills, New York, and mixed by Ali Chant.

Hamilton had this to say about “Plum” in a press release: “I wrote ‘Plum’ about wanting to be more comfortable and casual with thoughts I tend to avoid. Especially when I’m feeling very out-of-step with the world, there’s no use in being nostalgic for “the end of an era” or being afraid of what could happen. But, avoiding the present is kind of my default. I’m trying to be more aware that everyone is on its own trajectory, in its own time, slowly becoming something or becoming nothing.”

Official video for Widowspeak’s new single “Plum”.

Image may contain: text and outdoor

The stone that’s buried: what the fruit is for.” So goes the title track from Plum, Widowspeak’s forthcoming fifth album. The line serves as an apt analogy for the record itself: the self-aware sweetness that the band employs to deliver the seed of a harder, sharper idea. Singer Molly Hamilton coats wry observations in a voice as honeyed as the sun-ripened fruit, and Widowspeak have always made a bitter pill much easier to swallow. From its opening strum, there’s a palpable warmth and familiarity to the music even as it hints at darker truths below the surface, questions about inherent worth. What value and meaning do we assign ourselves, our time, and how do we spend it?
With Plum, the songwriting partnership rooted in the creative rapport between Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas continues to expand on shared visions, delving deeper into what was always there: dusty guitars, ear-worm melodies, warm expansive arrangements. Each entry to their catalogue has marked a subtle reimagining of Widowspeak’s sound, though perennial points of reference remain the same: 90’s dream pop, 60’s psych rock, a certain unshakeable Pacific-Northwestness. Speaking to the timeless feeling of each, the albums continue to be discovered well beyond their respective PR cycles, made beloved by new listeners through word of mouth.

“Money” is the latest track to be shared from Widowspeak’s upcoming long player “Plum”.

A song focused on the worth of contribution versus the cost of selling out, it is gloriously hypnotic, built on a cyclical repeating motif, with singer Molly Hamilton asking “Will you get back what you put in?” over an insistent guitar riff.

Plum carries a sense of unhurried self-awareness. It feels comfortable and lived-in: humble in structure, heavy on mood. Perhaps that came taking time off from the touring grind, instead working full-time jobs and settling into the rhythm of daily life in a small upstate New York town. Plum was recorded over a handful of weekends last winter by Sam Evian (Cass McCombs, Kazu Makino, Hannah Cohen) at his Flying Cloud studio in the Catskills.
In addition to Hamilton (vocals, guitar) and Thomas (guitars, bass, synth), it features instrumental contributions by Andy Weaver (drums), Michael Hess (piano), and Sam himself (bass, synth). Plum nestles into the band’s canon like it was always there, but with new textures coming to the fore, like the polyrhythmic pulse of “Amy” and “The Good Ones”, or the watery, Terry Riley-influenced track “Jeanie”.
The broader themes that run through Plum are almost eerily prescient for the time of its release, written and recorded in the eve of a global pandemic. Hamilton couldn’t have predicted the relevancy of mesmerizing track “Breadwinner”, with its central analogy of bread as time as money, or the song’s yearning pleas to a partner who’s “always bringing their work home”. And on “Even True Love”, Hamilton acknowledges the imminent loss of those closest to us: “In the deepest wells, in the shallow sick/I can see you shaking in the great unknown/Will you learn to live with what you chose?/Even true love, you can’t take it with you”. They’re songs for our time to be sure, but Plum reckons with existential pain that was always there, that will endure well beyond social distancing and into our collective new reality.

Official video for Widowspeak’s new single “Breadwinner”.

Plum by Widowspeak

“Plum” is the fifth album, and first  in three years, by Brooklyn indie types Widowspeak. Their music incorporates ‘60s psych rock and ‘90s dream pop – melodic with a widescreen warmth. The band decided to earn their corn by taking full-time jobs instead of touring, therefore the album was recorded during weekends when everyone was available. With song titles such as ‘Breadwinner’ and ‘Money’, how artists make a living is a central theme.
With the announcement comes the release of new single “Money.” The track soars over the back of a super slick and infectious guitar lick, that allows singer Molly Hamilton plenty of space to lay down her dreamy vocals. The track discusses the way that money plays a role in everything we do and the effect that has on our society.

Hamilton goes on to explain further below:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things we tell ourselves in order to “forget” the toll of our collective actions: whatever makes it easier to forgive what we’re complicit in. Some of that is related to the environment and how people have trained themselves to tune out “environmentalist propaganda”. We made part of the video at a park in Kingston and the archival footage is mostly pulled from films aimed at employees or shareholders of various industries. The narration for many of them (forestry, agriculture, mining, energy) was surprisingly concerned with the dangers of an environment out of balance… Shows you that we haven’t learned much in the last 70 years. On the other hand, the lyrics are also about capitalism and how it trains us to see everything in terms of value, even our experiences, and we get so caught up in seeking some sort of return on investment that we ignore the damage we inflict (on people, on ourselves, on the planet).”

Find the official video for “Money”

Following “Breadwinner” Widowspeak have their new album Plum, which will come out on August 23rd via Captured Tracks Records.

 

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At the core of Widowspeak’s allure is the creative chemistry between singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas. In the decade since the group first formed in Brooklyn they have released four critically-acclaimed full-length albums and toured extensively. Sonically, the band remains perennially anchored by Hamilton’s honeyed vocals and Thomas’s warm, expansive arrangements—references to 90’s dream pop, 60’s psychedelia, and a certain unshakeable Pacific-Northwestness. It’s comfortable, lived-in: humble in structure, heavy on mood.

Widowspeak have returned, just when we needed them most. Their brand new song “Breadwinner” is a captivating reflection on shared burdens in life and love.

During their recent tenure in the Hudson Valley and Catskills region of New York State, the duo took to writing new songs unhurriedly amidst the reality of day jobs, with an intentional hiatus from touring as the grounding force. “Breadwinner” is the first of these newer songs and points towards an absorption with pragmatic observations, small and personal realities of a rapidly changing world.

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The inspiration for “Breadwinner” came from the cover of a zine by Ian Vens, which had sat on display in their home for years. It read, “OH PLEASE BABY JUST QUIT OK IF ANYTHING COMES ALONG PLEASE PROMISE ME YOULL QUIT THAT JOB.” Hamilton felt there was a lot of truth in it, in her own experiences with dead-end work that felt unfulfilling, the economic instability that goes hand-in-hand with choosing to “follow one’s dreams,” and the pain of watching those close to you suffer just to pay for the realities of their existence. The lyrics were also inspired by a growing fascination with bread as allegory; the idea of proving oneself, and reaping the reward of labor. “Breadwinner” is a song about shared burdens in life and love, and hoping that there’s something transcendent, honest in whatever it is to work.

Released May 27th, 2020

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Widowspeak cover Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”. Catch them in Europe. Widowspeak released a new album, Expect The Best, earlier this year, and today they’ve shared a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” in advance of their European tour. It’s as beautiful and plaintive as you’d expect from the Brooklyn group,

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11/14 – Amsterdam, NL – Sugarfactory
11/15 – Utrecht, NL – Db’s
11/17 – Birmingham, UK – Actress & Bishop
11/18 – Glasgow, UK – Nice n Sleazy
11/20 – London, UK – Oslo
11/21 – Brighton, UK – The Hope
11/23 – Rotterdam, NL – Rotown
11/26 – Berlin, DE – Volksbühne
11/27 – Hamburg, DE – Hafenklang
11/28 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega
11/29 – Stockholm, SWE – Obaren
11/30 – Oslo, NO – Revolver
12/01 – Gothenburg, SWE – Oceanen
12/02 – Lund, SWE – Mejeriet

Seven years in, Widowspeak remain purveyors of mood. Whether painting an image of a basement apartment with blinds closed or conjuring the sweeping openness of a desert, 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.

On their newest album, Expect the Best, Widowspeak use familiar aesthetics as a narrative device, a purposeful nostalgic backdrop for songs that ask, “How did we get here?” Sonically, they exist somewhere in the overlap between somber indie rock, dream pop, slow-core and their own invented genre, “cowboy grunge.” At the heart of the band, there is a palpable duality, a push and pull between the delicate and the deliberate: the contrast of lead singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton’s strikingly beautiful voice and poignant melodies with the terrestrial reality of being a four-piece rock band. These songs sound like the dark bars and rock clubs they were imagined for just as much as the bedrooms where they were written. Expect the Best sees Widowspeak finding their greatest balance between opposing forces — darkness and light, quiet and loud, tension and calm — to create their best album to date.

Much of Widowspeak’s forthcoming album, “Expect The Best”, was written after singer Molly Hamilton returned to the town of her youth, Tacoma, Washington. It’s perhaps fitting then that it a record that seems to deal heavily in self-examination and exploring the feeling of being adrift in a rudderless world.

On their newest album for Brooklyn record label Captured Tracks, Widowspeak use familiar aesthetics as a narrative device, a purposeful nostalgic backdrop for songs.  Sonically, they exist somewhere in the overlap between somber indie rock, dream pop, slow-core and their own invented genre, “cowboy grunge.” At the heart of the band, there is a palpable duality, a push and pull between the delicate and the deliberate: the contrast of lead singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton with her strikingly beautiful  voice and poignant melodies with the terrestrial reality of being a four-piece rock band. These songs sound like the dark bars and rock clubs they were imagined for just as much as the bedrooms where they were written. “Expect the Best”  sees Widowspeak finding their greatest balance between opposing forces: darkness and light, quiet and loud, tension and calm.

Expect The Best, is the band’s first album recorded as a four piece, due out next week, and ahead of that release, Widowspeak have shared the stunning new single, The Dream. Many of the hallmarks of earlier recordings, the dusty twanging lead guitar lines and Molly Hamilton’s world-weary vocals, remain, but Widowspeak sound fuller and more ambitious than ever. Cinematic strings soar into The Dream, creating a perfect backdrop to the beautiful vocal delivery, as Molly seems to question her life choices, repeating the line, “isn’t that the dream?”, as if trying to convince herself as much as anyone else. The album title might tell us to expect the best, and listening to a track as good as The Dream, how could you expect anything else?

Expect The Best is out August 25th on Captured Tracks Records.

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When “Girls” was released in the spring of 2015, we woke up and took notice. We’d loved Widowspeak’s Jarvis Taveniere-produced debut in 2011, but found the follow-up, 2013’s Almanac, a trifle problematic, as Molly Hamilton’s ethereal voice, lathered on too thick, can be like a cake that’s all icing and air. Yet “Girls” was a nutritious harmonic pastry, still sweet but plenty nourishing, and a few months later when “All Yours” was released, we prayed that the full album would be as good as those two songs. Happily, Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas’s move from Brooklyn to Upstate New York has filled their music with fresh Hudson Valley air, and any cloying sensibilities have been washed away. The sugar high is gone, we happily declared with All Yours came out in September 2015, and it was a wonderful backdrop to autumn.