Warpaint - The Fool
Record Label: Rough Trade
Release Date: October 25, 2010
I first heard the song “Elephants,” from Warpaint’s EP Exquisite Corpse, while searching for new bands, and it hit me like a breath of fresh air. Something about this band stuck with me, and some quick research led me to their debut LP, The Fool. The EP was an enjoyable listen, however notable steps forward with respect to production value, songwriting, and musicianship make The Fool like the older, more experienced sibling to Exquisite Corpse, a sentiment the band themselves have expressed. The Fool is not lacking in energy, to be sure, but the energy is more focused, pushing the strengths of the band to the forefront.
Opener “Set Your Arms Down” establishes the tone for the record and immediately showcases Warpaint’s penchant for songs that build slowly until they overflow. Lead vocalist Emily Kokal’s saccharine voice floats above heavy bass chords, declaring that she is ready to take on whatever is coming. The song keeps a slow, steady pace until bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg pushes forward with a pounding bass line, adding a definite groove to the meandering twin guitars. The nature of the band’s sound allows Lindberg to give the songs a pulse by opening up the bass, and the songs are all the better for it.
The lyrical imagery on the album is backed up with musical imagery to match; “Warpaint,” “Undertow,” and closer “Lissie’s Heart Murmur” are full of underwater imagery beyond the words themselves, from effected guitars and vocals that create an ominous tone of being surrounded by ocean to the subtle attack of mallets, lulling and swelling like lapping waves. When Kokal lowers her voice and sings “We sink so far down” on “Murmur,” a story about being pulled under the water, you feel as if you are in fact being pulled under water by the song itself.
While original drummer-turned-actress Shannyn Sossamon held her own on the EP, current drummer Stella Mozgawa was definitely the missing piece to the formula for the band. Mozgawa’s beats are tight, and her frequent use of offbeat accent notes, such as those on “Warpaint,” serve as a perfect compliment to Lindberg’s wandering bass; the combined rhythm section keeps the haze of guitars anchored and prevents the songs from becoming too billowy.
The album is also dotted with electronic experimentation, such as the beat that opens “Bees,” and the straightforward “Majesty” ends with a dive into an electronics-tinged jam session that is one of the album’s highlights. The brighter vocal pitch of guitarist Theresa Wayman takes the lead on both tracks, shining like a beacon through the fog of effects. A surprising but welcome break from the complex layers of instrumentation, “Baby” is a simple acoustic number with gentle vocals and sweet lyrics from Kokal, who drips melodies like honey as she croons, “You live your life like a page from the book of my fantasy.”
If there is a weakness to be found here, it is in the lyrics; while they certainly fit the melody and mood of the music, they can be a little simplistic at times. Taken as part of the whole, however, it is not hard to look past this. One of the things that drew me to Warpaint is that the they don’t try to be anything more than what they are, which is consistent, melodic and enjoyable. Warpaint has potential, and as they gear up to record their sophomore album the buzz is only growing.