Some bands grab you from the get-go and some sneak up on you, a slow-moving rainstorm or a creeping sadness. Widowspeak (above, performing “Right On” for Audtiotree Live) have always been in the latter category, their music a narcotic blend of indie and dream and a somewhat surprising dose of country twang. Mollie Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas have a growing catalog that, without warning, has filled out into an impressive collection, inhabiting its own sonic space, equal parts mood mover and rock and roll. Their new album, Expect the Best (stream it below), is the sound fully realized, the group operating in the studio for the first time with their touring quartet. In the live setting, Widowspeak’s slow grab is even more powerful, the atmospheric melancholy unleashed into something quite rocking. They play Rough Trade NYC this Friday for a hometown appearnce that, despite the warning, still has a good chance of sneaking up on you. Chicago trio Clearance and Brooklyn four-piece Air Waves open the show. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Tag Archives: Widowspeak
As the Brooklyn-based duo Widowspeak, Molly Hamilton (vocals and guitar) and Robert Earl Thomas (guitar) make their own brand of dreamy pop music. Their second full-length, Almanac (stream it below), arrived this past January. Filled with Hamilton’s haunting vocals, and thanks to it combining “range and focus so expertly,” Paste called “Almanac an early surprise for 2013.” And after touring extensively behind the album, Widowspeak (above, performing “The Dark Age” for Converse Rubber Tracks), plus Pure Bathing Culture and Spires, are back in NYC and ready to rock The Bowery Ballroom tonight.
Widowspeak – Mercury Lounge – Janauary 22, 2013
It looks like a real winter has arrived in New York City. All the chatter between sets last night at Mercury Lounge was some variation of “Cold enough for ya!?”—and coats and hats were de rigueur even after the room was packed front to back. There are several strategies for dealing with the onset of winter and the bill last night featured a good soundtrack for each of them. You can just decide to bunker down inside and wait it out until spring. And if that’s your tack, Prince Rupert’s Drops would be a good choice. Getting better with every gig, their long, cliff-diving guitar jams were perfect for letting your mind wander completely unaware of how low the mercury had dipped outside.
Or perhaps you prefer to get out of town altogether. In that case, Murals, out of Louisville, Ky., might fit the bill, with their surf-y guitar and soft-spoken vocals, their set was a perfect complement to a lazy day at the beach. Of course, most in the sold-out crowd were just prepared to deal with it head on. And headliner Widowspeak played a set of ideal winter music combining the barren, soft, quiet-snowflakes-falling vocals of Molly Hamilton with a band that rumbles like a storm in February with a “wintry mix” of sound. Like a landscape covered with new snow, the Brooklyn band was all about fresh and new Tuesday night, celebrating the release of their album Almanac earlier in the day and featuring for the first time a fifth member who split time on both electric piano and guitar.
Many of the new songs were played for the first time, and while Hamilton seemed apologetic, they came off as fully formed ready-to-go rockers, the band dialed in nicely for each one. A lot of the material was too new to be known, even for the packed crowd of longtime fans, and so they laid back and took in the new stuff, which had a decisively heavier edge, a lot of the twang from the older stuff swallowed by a band with the confidence and ability to go full throttle. By the end, Widowspeak were operating at full fledged Nor’easter making sure that if winter was going to be around for a while, at least we had the music to help face it head on. —A. Stein
2:54/Widowspeak – Mercury Lounge – June 11, 2012
Many of New York City’s best-kept secrets are hidden in plain sight, easily accessible and there for the taking if you only knew. Take Brooklyn’s Widowspeak, a band that seems to play at one club or another every night, unassumingly honing their live show, impressing audiences on a regular basis. Last night they were easily found in their natural habitat onstage on the Lower East Side, this time at Mercury Lounge. When not delivering haunting vocals, lead singer Molly Hamilton shot glances into the audience that were all at once nervous, coy and mysterious, perfectly summing up the sound. As usual, Widowspeak’s incessant playing showed in its live performance. The songs are dark and melancholic, a prairie psychedelic with discomforting guitar solos and an I’ve-gotta-roam rhythm. A brand new song (“two days new”), barely ready for the stage, helped show where the seams are as four distinct parts—vocals, guitar, bass and drums—showed signs of what will soon be, but not quite yet. The set’s centerpiece was the group’s signature cover of “In the Pines,” which, alone, is worth a Monday night out. Every band should own a song the way Widowspeak owns this spooky, twangy, otherworldly version.
Closing out the night, the UK’s 2:54 took the same boy-girl-boy-girl, guitars-drums-bass formula as Widowspeak and made something complementary but certainly altogether different. Their music had parts, songs shifted from one section to another, the gears twisting like the insides of a watch. The sound was punctuated by basslines so heavy you could feel their weight in the crowd. Beneath this blanket of low end, architectural drumming, a dreamy lead guitar with plenty of bite and a lead singer with a sleek style and bright lipstick, was a look evoking a dancing mannequin in an old Robert Palmer video. While the music was loud rock and roll at its core, there was an urge to go even louder, like a hot shower that could get even hotter. The late set gained strength and momentum as 2:54 mostly worked off songs from their self-titled debut. With the band shrouded in a static darkness, the normal bevy of photographers needed to go with the flashes, creating its own light show and adding to the mystery. —A. Stein
Twin Sister – The Bowery Ballroom – December 17, 2011
The Bowery Ballroom was packed full of revelers for Twin Sister’s headlining set on Saturday night, as part of a sold-out holiday-themed show sponsored by ubiquitous music Web site Brooklyn Vegan. The five-piece specializes in a mellow style of spaced-out disco, the likes of which might be at home on an easy-listening station—on Mars. Equal parts soothing, chilling, ethereal and danceable, the music contains a unique otherworldly quality, largely due to singer Andrea Estella’s singular voice, which ranges from smooth and velvety to a high-pitched coo.
Although the band is fairly young (both in inception and members’ ages), they’ve already released a couple EPs and a full-length record since forming in 2008, and the group played a nice selection of songs from those discs during the set. Upbeat ones, like “Stop” and “Bad Street,” got the crowd moving, while “Lady Daydream” and “Eastern Green” enveloped the audience with slow, trippy grooves. “Gene Ciampi” contained a spaghetti western vibe, while the dramatic crooner “Spain” would fit nicely as a futuristic James Bond theme.
Openers Widowspeak also delivered a strong set: a beautiful interplay of warm reverb and singer Molly Hamilton’s soft, textured voice. Despite receiving a good deal of rapturous praise over the past year for their ’90s-inspired hazy rock, the band seemed endearingly modest, and when Hamilton shyly said, “Happy holidays” at the end of the set, flashing an awkward thumbs up, she seemed to almost immediately cringe with embarrassment, rushing to grab her gear and get offstage. While Widowspeak and Twin Sister may not be the kind of music you associate with your typical holiday party, they sure seemed to get the folks in the crowd in the (futuristic, spacey, tripped-out) holiday spirit last night. —Alena Kastin