Widowspeak’s self-titled debut is a record that will pass right under your nose if you’re not careful. The female-fronted Brooklyn trio’s sound—a deceptively simple throwback to shoegaze and protopunk—doesn’t jump out and demand your undivided attention; and so, listening to the record, you’ll be tempted to check out and just let the songs roll by. But give in to that temptation and you’ll miss out on some cool subtleties that define this band.
The first of which is singer Molly Hamilton’s voice. These days, it seems a staple of the low-dB indie scene for bands to bury their singers beneath layers of reverb and processed effects. And that’s cool, sometimes, but Widowspeak doesn’t go that route. Hamilton’s smooth, whispering voice is left untouched, free to float above the band in pleasantly lazy, stretched-out phrases. Her singing holds everything together, whether these guys are waltzing through slow-burners like the hypnotic “Harsh Realm” or taking a relatively upbeat turn on “Hard Times.”
The second cool thing you’ll miss if you’re not listening is that there’s some killer guitar work going on here. Guitarist Robert Thomas strikes a near-perfect balance of staying tastefully in the pocket when needed but also jumping out front at opportune times with an offbeat surf vibe that sounds just enough like Television. (Need proof? Note the similarity between the verse riffs of “Nightcrawlers” and “Prove It”). “In The Pines” is a perfect example of that balance; on the verse, the guitars stick to whole notes and otherworldly, textured delay before busting into a sliding mid-range riff on the interludes.
Coincidentally, Widowspeak’s cover is a rather effective illustration of the band’s sound. On it, leopards and disembodied hands share space with dudes in leisure suits and that bronze Akkadian head thing that you’ll recognize from history class. The elements are all familiar, but pulled out of their usual context and painted together in soft tones, they create a dreamy landscape that’s just odd enough to invite you in for a closer look; and the record itself is a lot like that.