New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Widowspeak Return with a Jangling and Slow-Burning Blues

Inadvertently over the past week, week and a half or so, I’ve focused on a handful of JOVM mainstay acts, who have released new material including Summer Heart, Tame Impala, Surf Rock Is Dead, METZ, The Afghan Whigs and others, and that streak will continue a bit longer with new material from another mainstays act, Widowspeak. And as you may recall, the act, which is currently composed of its  Tacoma, WA-born, Brooklyn-based founding members Molly Hamilton (vocals, guitars) and Robert Earl Thomas (guitar) can trace its origins back to 2010 when the band formed as a trio featuring Hamilton, Thomas and Hamilton’s longtime friend Michael Stasiak. As a trio they released their critically applauded 2011 self-titled debut, an effort that had album single “Harsh Realm” featured in an episode of American Horror StoryWith greater attention on the group, the then-trio recruited Pamela Garavano-Coolbaugh for their subsequent tours; however, by following year, Stasiak and Gravano-Coolbaugh left the band.

While in the middle of a massive lineup change, Hamilton and Thomas began working on their Kevin McMahon-produced sophomore effort Almanac, an album that was released to critical applause and growing national attention; in fact, the band was named one of Fuse TV‘s 30 Must-See Artists at 2013’s SXSW. And if you were frequenting this site back then, you would have come across a couple of posts featuring the acclaimed, Brooklyn-based duo. Up until earlier this summer, some time had passed since I had personally written about them but as it turned out the members of Widowspeak had been working on a new album, Expect The Best, which is slated for an August 25, 2017 through renowned indie label Captured Tracks Records. Album single “Dog,” as Widowspeak’s Hamilton told NPR is “about the compulsion to move on from things and places, even people when you’re not necessarily ready to. Sometimes I get caught up in ‘the grass is always greener’ mentalities or cling to an idea that ‘I’d be happy if . . .’ and make a drastic change. Then inevitably, I feel restless a few months later and it stars again.” While sonically, the song will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting moody and hazy guitar pop that channels Mazzy Star, the song possesses a restless and ambivalent vibe as it captures an easily bored and frustrated narrator, who desperately yearns for more and more and more. Expect The Best‘s latest single “When I Tried” is a slow, churning blues with layers jangling, guitar pedal effect guitars paired with a propulsive yet simple drum pattern  which Hamilton’s aching yet ethereal vocals float over, and much like its preceding single, captures a bored and frustrated narrator, who yearns for more and more — and yet feels hopelessly stuck and confused.

Interestingly though, as Hamilton explains to the folks at Stereogum “I didn’t go into this record trying to make every song about feeling stuck, or about self-doubt or anxiety. Those feelings aren’t really what you want to proclaim to the world or make a whole record about, even if it’s the truth. But, in the end, it ended up making more sense to be honest. ‘When I Tried’ is about when I was having a hard time starting things, or finishing them, maybe due to my own expectations of what it would turn into or maybe due to me doubting that I’d even be able to make it happen at all . . . I wasn’t sure what the motivation was anymore. Not specifically related to music, or creative work, but to everything. I wanted to get out and be social to take my mind off it, but I had a hard time keeping that up, too. It’s hard to keep up the effort of trying.”