29 November 2016

Warpaint - Heads Up

To be honest, I almost dropped reviewing this album.  This might seem like a strange way to open a review, but after their 2014 album 'Warpaint' (review aka slating linked here) I was not really overwhelmed by some of the music on offer; to be honest looking back on it, I was a little rude in some ways.  But it was an album which was so lacklustre that I could not keep honestly say it was a decent album, let alone a good one.  So, after having such a low opinion of the band, why am I reviewing another album?  Well, I like to see if my first impression was right or wrong; it is always best to test your own believes on a band or you will never move out of your own little world.  So, it is time to test my own resolve - is this an improvement on their last record or not?

01 - Whiteout

'Whiteout' is a heavier creature to those found on their last album, the bass is deeper on this one and it has a darker vibe with a lot more substance from the opening.  The vocals mix better on this song, it does not sound as breathy or deliberately faint.  However, it is a number that still feels a little too empty for its own good in places and whilst I hear improvement from the beginning, it is a cold track in places.

02 - By Your Side

It is back to the minimalist music with 'By Your Side', a song about a liar who is being called out and the mood is increasingly darken with the feeling of not being alone.  There is a Radiohead influence to the song, a sound that is akin to the darker elements of Nine Inch Nails and at some points it really works.  But it is still a little too empty for me in places, by the time it starts to gather momentum it has lost my interest and it feels like too little, too late.  Still a vast improvement on anything from their last album though, so it is small steps once again.

03 - New Song

The first song to be released from this album and it could not be more of a contrast from 'By Your Side', 'New Song' is a happier, busier song that has indie hit single wrote all over it.  It is one that has been following me around for weeks and I can totally see why it has been getting a lot of attention.  It has attitude, it has spirit, it gets the mix right; if there was more of this, it would totally change my view on Warpaint.

04 - The Stall

But alas, we are back to the slower, moodier music that was the main theme of 'By Your Side' which takes so long to gain any really traction.  'The Stall' is a song about hitting bottom and continuing whilst having someone watch out for you, it is a decent and the music (to be fair) is not bad at all.  But after that ray of sunshine that was 'New Song', even with its supportive lyrics, it feels like everything is back to black once again.

05 - So Good

Now this is an interest number, there is a slight change to the beat and everything moves along with such a groove that it is ends up sounding like an indie disco classic already.  The bass and drums are the winning keys on this song, driving those guitars and dream-pop vocals along and grabbing the audience by the hand, taking them elsewhere.  It is such a good song, definitely one of the best on the album.

06 - Don't Wanna

A song about not wanting to be labelled, this song falls back to that moody, predictable slow indie electronica that can sometimes work, but sadly that is not the case here.  It just drifts by so slowly that it drags on for far too long, but it does have an interesting bass line; so, without wanting to be mean, I will move onto the next song.

07 - Don't Let Go

I can see what they were aiming for here, I truly can; it is a song that is about wanting to let go, but still wanting the connection at the same time and not truly being able to make that final move.  But the main guitar riff which stars the song and is the holding pattern of the song it also the weakest link here; the rest of the song, the vocals and the rest of the guitars are really good - but that main riff is just weak sauce and put me off once again.

08 - Dre

A song about falling in love, not about the Dr who everyone is after, 'Dre' is a throwback to the 'Warpaint' album for me.  I am not saying it is bad, there are some good little sounds from the guitar here and there, the vocals sound as good as they have done in this album.  But the overall effect is poor and it just drifts by far too slowly and it does not add up to a good listen.

09 - Heads Up

There is something of a Fleetwood Mac feeling to 'Heads Up', as if the band have taken a bit of HAIM and made it their own.  Of course, it is mixed in with their own mixture of minimal sound in places, but there is enough on here to make everything sound interesting to say the least.

10 - Above Control

'Above Control' is all about seeking independents from one's foes, this song seeks to sound epic within the confides of the Warpaint style.  It must be hard at times when your style is minimalist and the style is the most important thing.  This sort of hampers the song, but I can see the potential behind the song and it just needed a little more behind the guitar for it to work as it is too light for the music for me.

11 - Today Dear
Ending the album is 'Today Dear', a solemn and acoustic lead song that sounds painful from the beginning.  There is pain on this song, it is ingrained to the very bones of the number and it does something that none of the other songs have done; it does something different.  Is it perfect?  No, but I like that it is not perfect.  Is it something they should follow?  I am not sure, I reckon that they should follow their own path and do what they want, but it is good to hear something new from the band.

Ok, I can see what the general aim of Warpaint is, what the general sound is for this album and how they are trying to distinguish their sound in this world.  They are doing well; this album was a hit in a few countries around the world and they have been gaining good press.  So, I will get my negatives out of the way first: there is far too much style here for its own good, Warpaint are very good at making a moody piece of music and it can work against the grain for me.  I love music when it is dark and mysterious, in places this just seems to be moody for brownie points.  Positives - this is a sonic leap for me ahead of 'Warpaint', the improvement is fantastic and when they hit that indielectronica groove, they are world beaters.  Songs like 'New Song' and 'So Good' standout like hills in a flat land for me and it keeps things interesting.  So, it is an improvement to their sound, something which I had not been expecting and is most welcome.

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but it is not quite there

Top track - New Song

You can purchase Heads Up on Amazon here.

You can visit the Warpaint website here.

You can follow the activities of Warpaint on Facebook here.

You can stream Heads Up on Spotify here.

At the time of writing, Heads Up was not on Deezer - here is a link to the Warpaint page on Deezer, it will appear here once it is on the stream service.

You can stream Heads Up on Tidal here.

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