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Album Review: Warpaint's Warpaint

Warpaint's Warpaint Album, 2014


There are few all female bands that command the kind of attention that L.A. natives Warpaint do, and, quite frankly, deserve. Their feel-good-all-over bass and deep, transcendental lyricism (some Warpaint songs can run up to 7 minutes long) is what garnered their 2009 Exquisite Corpse EP renowned acclaim by the likes of BBC. What followed in 2010 was The Fool, a genre-evading, 9 song album that bordered on the metaphysical and defined the band as a musical force to be reckoned with. What’s distinct about Warpaint’s presence, both live and in their recordings, is the band’s instrumental command and audacious penchant for experimentation, which is what makes their music exciting: you never quite know where a song is taking you but you’re more than happy to endure the journey -- but how far does Warpaint plan to go before everyone starts asking what’s the point of the euphonic expedition?

Warpaint at Coachella 2014-slide0
Photo by Jason Kempin
Warpaint's 2014 release

After touring extensively since the release of The Fool many fans and critics alike anticipated Warpaint’s release of a sophomore album, and they didn’t disappoint, kind of. The self titled followup is 51 minutes of gauzy, percussive ambience that’s a lot cleaner and surprisingly minimal compared to the encyclopedic Exquisite Corpse and miscellaneousness of The Fool. Less shabby chic and more refined, Warpaint pieces together the best elements of their instrumental interplay and disembodied vocals to create something that earnestly hones in on each musician’s individual strengths. On “Intro” and “Keep It Healthy” drummer Stella Mozgawa’s percussive prowess is finally recognized while Jenny Lee’s melodic bass isn’t treated as just filler, but actual melody. The vocals of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman are familiar and quintessentially phantom -- oozing that same je ne sais quoi that made the band so magical and refreshing to begin with.

In “Love Is To Die,” the most redeeming track of the sophomore tour de force, the band expertly steers the reigns of their dusky, psychedelic horse into the realms of the dreamy unknown; channeling the dream pop of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and the heady lyrical amalgam found in Julia Holtzer’s Loud City Song. Much of the same phantasmal-turned-orgasmic sultriness works its way through tracks like “Hi” and “Biggy,” where the band swaps rhythmic bass for resonating synths and ephemeral lyrics for harmonies that evoke 90’s R&B without being gaudy and predictable. “Teese” seems to pick up right where Exquisite Corpse’s “Beetles” left off in a swathing wax and wane of lyrical implications of a foggy, drug-induced stupor (“I need more now, I want more now...You’re so golden, I’m so golden now...I want more now, I want more now...) and continues as a transient entity in “CC.”

With that being said though, Warpaint is a momentous and successful execution of structural evolution that, unfortunately, leaves the album lyrically arid. In true ‘jam band’ fashion, Warpaint prides itself on rhythmic grooves, chord patterns that are improvisational and a head-bopping-feet-tapping formula that seems to be working in their favor, especially on “Disco//very” -- for now.

What Warpaint seems to misunderstand is not everything about an album can be caught up in sound and vague libretto will only get you so far. “Go In,” “Feeling Alright,” “Drive,” and “Son,” are all flat undertakings that drag out the 51 minute album towards an unknowable (re: less exciting) and quite confusing end; by track 11 I was ready to get back to reality. In all its Darwinistic glory, Warpaint relies much too heavily on indulgent submergence and musical 'experience.' If the goal was to mystify, then they overwhelmingly succeeded, but to what end? Well, Warpaint nearly avoided the dreadfully ominous sophomore slump and the album starts off promising but ends up as unsatisfying as a one night stand. Truly an exercise in patience, Warpaint is trapped in a perplexing limbo where we wait forever for something remarkable to happen, and when it does, it's short-lived. Hopefully their next musical venture absolves them from being thrust into the depths of the murky abyss.

Listen to Warpaint's Warpaint here.

Watch the Disco//very video here.

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