Widowspeak. Sometimes you look at a band’s name and think, ‘what’s it all about’, so I decided to find out. A widows peak is, apparently, “a distinct point in the hairline in the centre of the forehead” and “the term widow’s peak is from the belief that hair growing to a point on the forehead is an omen of early widowhood”. So there we are, a band named after an omen of early widowhood. The question is, does the band sound like it should have such sombre associations?
Quite frankly, with the first five songs on the album, yes. The opening riff could have come straight off The Drums’ debut, but that upbeat feeling is short lived. Harsh Realm, the second track, is a real atmosphere builder – a lethargic song full of yearning in which singer/songwriter Molly Hamilton repeatedly croons “I always think about you”, but you get the feeling that she’s not particularly happy about it.
In fact, when you hear the first five songs of this album you’re likely to get a terrible urge to put up black-out curtains, fill the room with hazy smoke and write heart-wrenching poetry to low red lighting. But since it’s best to leave that kind of work to teenage Nirvana fans you’d be right to ask whether this album is a keeper. Thankfully though, the answer to that question is yes.
There is definitely something to be said for the phrase “patience is a virtue”, and Widowspeak pull a big ray of sunshine out of the bag in the second half of the album. Gun Shy marks the turning point – it starts with the sound of birds singing, has a sound not dissimilar from The Shadows and although the lyrics still smack of homesickness and relationship woes there is something distinctly optimistic in the music. Even Hard Times, which you don’t expect to enjoy, leaves a smile on the face.
The best track on this album is number 9 of 10, the very aptly named Half Awake – they really make you wait for this. Normally bands punch you in the face with their best material in the first half of an album, The Killers‘ Hot Fuss being a prime example, so to have the second half of an album outselling the first is a rarity. Half Awake couples a catchy guitar hook, with the best parts of Hamilton’s soft, lilting voice.
The conclusion for Widowspeak’s eponymous debut – this is clearly a band with potential. If they write more songs like those in the back half of the album, or manage to produce a record full of Half Awake’s and Gun Shy’s we’ll be in business. So put this album on, be prepared to go down before you go up, buckle yourself in for an emotional ride and make sure that you stick it out until the end.
Words: Steven Baldwin