Widowspeak: “Ballad of the Golden Hour”
The cover art on Brooklyn-based band Widowspeak’s forthcoming record Almanac is slightly misleading. At first. It features band primaries (singer Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas) clad in late 19th-century garb standing in front of a rocky, Appalachian waterfall. The typeface for the title is ripped right out of a Victorian music hall handbill. Hamilton leans back slightly, and shoots Thomas a coquettish look as he stands jack straight with his thumbs thrust deeply into his jaunty, brown waistcoat. But if you’re expecting the music to be probably too-twee, trendy, hipster americana you might be surprised.
Actually, that’s not exactly true. Wafts of folk flow through the bands music, but even when it’s most pronounced, it has more in common with the Neil Young’s shambolic psych-folk stomp than mandolin-clutching backwoods beat. Thomas’s guitar lines are twangy, but long and languid like a California highway. Think Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” meets Buffalo Springfield. Hamilton’s sweet, but narcotically moody, vocals have earned her many–deserved–comparisons to Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval.
Hamilton and Thomas formed the band in summer 2010 along with drummer Michael Stasiak, Hamilton’s friend from back home in Tacoma, Wash. They released their debut single “Harsh Realm” in March 2011 via Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks imprint. The “Gun Shy” single came just a few months later, and featured a very fitting cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” on the b-side. Their self-titled, full-length debut followed in August.
On January 22 the band issues Almanac (again via Captured Tracks). The band enlisted the help of producer Kevin McMahon, whose credits include great records like Real Estate’s Days and Titus Andronicus’s epic The Monitor. Today’s song of the day, “Ballad of the Golden Hour,” is the first single off the record. The song is crisp. It’s bright. But it still manages to float on the ethereal psych-nouveau plane that made Widowspeak such an interesting listen from the start. Stasiak’s drums are vice-tight. Thomas layers guitars like a pro. He lays razor-like lines over delightfully washy rhythm work. The popping, ascending and descending bass lines give the song a nice kick, and Hamilton’s vocals are precious as ever. The song lives in contrasts. It yearns just as much as it broods. It’s as metropolitan as it is pastoral. Actually, come to think of it, the album cover makes perfect sense.