Review: Widowspeak – Theme From the Swamps EP

New York – On Widowspeak’s new EP, The Swamps, the band has captured a little moment of magic, and also managed to inspire the same every time I take a listen. Almost one year after the release of their second full length, Almanac, this release is meant to serve as a bridge between that and a forthcoming third album, something that speaks to their tour travels in the meantime. Perhaps that’s what makes it so hazy, putting more shoegaze into their American western indie rock, and putting more swamp into their blues pop.

The opening “Theme From the Swamps” is a mood setter, a quick intro that gives the listener a good idea of what the feel of the whole entails and begins to drag them deep into a sunlit dream. Then throughout the rest of the EP, Molly Hamilton’s voice remains airy and light, floating on the breeze of Robert Earl Thomas’ guitar work. The atmosphere the two create is fitting for a swamp setting. There’s sun and shadows, mist and mystery. The land is as amorphous as the time, and can shift easily.

Singles “True Believer” and “Calico” are the meat of the EP, taking the bluesy slide guitar the band has gotten so good at and going on a journey with it. “True Believer” actually takes a twist into more tropical slide, bringing out the sun even more and parting the haze, meant to hypnotize and speak in tongues, like Hamilton sings. As a whole, Thomas’ guitar prowess is what stands out the most, and what everything seems to be built on. Hamilton’s vocals and rhythm guitar are secondary in proficiency, but if he’s the head than she’s the heart, and both are equally important for setting the mood and making the listener feel what they feel. The fact that Hamilton sounds so much like Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star has already been pointed out to saturation, but because it’s undeniable and obviously an allure.

“Brass Bed” all but completely clears the ambiance and takes you out of the moment, being what is maybe the closest thing to a folk pop happy love song Widowspeak has ever done, which is weird among the better blues tunes, but nothing to hate on. Especially when the twinkling guitar and slide come in. It’s like trying to play a happy song in a blues scale, somewhat out of place among the flow, but still expressing a real feel in it’s time and place. Title track “The Swamps” bookends the experience, a seductive slow number that seems to shimmer into the night. Here, it’s Hamilton’s voice that does the sliding, and the song ends with a cadence that doesn’t have full closure. Widowspeak have crossed the bridge leading from where they’ve come from, and where they cross to is where the next phase of their musical journey begins.