Warpaint are no strangers to getting under people’s skin, and on their fourth studio album ‘Radiate Like This,’ they find more ways than one to do just that.
Stream: ‘Radiate Like This’ – Warpaint
Warpaint are no strangers to getting under people’s skin.
Whether with their intoxicating melange of motley post-punk, hip- and trip-hop, they certainly elicit mixed feelings from the ivory tower indieheads. Those who consider Mezzanine the only album worthy of replicating and yet deride every attempt.
“Pretenders to the throne,” they would scoff, and one would be tempted to scoff right back.
For Radiate Like This, however, the band of Emily Kokal, Jenny Lee Lindberg, Theresa Wayman and Stella Mozgawa engage in something more worth their time: They expand the repertoire.
Starting with “Stevie,” the members of Warpaint regale a platonic love inspired by Stevie Wonder’s music.
“You give me happiness
Because you make me wanna
You make me wanna dance
The leisurely guitar dips in and out of the mix, Wayman’s keyboard twinkles and Kokal’s vocal range even displays a light trill on “weather” that should encourage future appearances. Mozgawa’s drums may sit further in the mix—but not dangerously so—co-producer Sam Petts-Davies just ensures the flowery instrumentation stays at the fore. It’s a gorgeous effort among gorgeous efforts.
Previously, only a couple modes existed per Warpaint record; post-punk, trip-, and hip-hop. Radiate Like This actually goes in multiple directions. Post-rock, soul, singer-songwriter, surf rock, new age; all of these come out in the end product to make a collection of cuts far more mottled than on albums past.
For fans of Jennylee’s 2015 solo album Right On!, “Like Sweetness” is the bass track on the collection. Lindberg and Mozgawa form an undeniable rhythm section on this song. The flat trip-hop drum tone and menacingly slow bass puts “Like Sweetness” into another category. Lindberg’s bass falls back behind synthesizer foliage, with Kokal’s guitar taking some of the focus, but they wisely never stray too far as to forget the main power behind the cut.
“Trouble” is a neat little piano-centered post-rock piece — Kokal’s thin post-rock guitar reminds of Mogwai’s “Acid Food.” Lindberg’s ghost vocals pair well with the marvelous violin shakeup to their normal musicality.
Similarly, the horns on “Proof” provide an excellent sonic diversion from Mozgawa’s complex drumming, Wayman’s red sky synth work, and piano that carries the second-half for a delicious back catalog track; this is Warpaint in the depth of their powers.
They follow it up with the blossoming “Altar,” also with a piano like a bell toll. Each clang heralds the pre-chorus to Neo-Gothic bravado.
Kokal and Lindberg’s words have always functioned in a textural rather than literal capacity, but this might be the first record in which they stop their quiet storms regaling the demise of those would dare put Warpaint in a corner. No longer do they yearn to move on, because they already have. Sail away, sailor boy, they sing:
“No looking back, you’re on thе other shore
Look wherе you land, you are already home
See the expanse, you have already crossed
Across an ocean, I am in motion
When will I feel it let me go?”
– “Trouble,” Warpaint
The pairing of clearer lyricism and expanded musical modes signals a sonic evolution and generates two effects on Radiate Like This:
- Kokal, Lindberg, Wayman and Mozgawa find better success weaving together the power inherent to their native instruments with their disparate musicality.
- With this wider variety comes a sonic crispness. Heads Up would devolve into mush and slop. Not here. Instruments play sharp and provide plenty of melodic color to pique interest.
The pianos don’t dawdle. Kokal’s guitars experiment with more wiry and timbre-heavy post-rock tones. The drum sound never repeats consecutively, even expanding into house-tinged programming. The band risks it with well-placed violins and horns.
In an ironic twist, these little variations and flourishes pose more curiosities than the opening thrust of the collection. A start-stop affair (mostly because “Champion” is a bona fide opener, but we’ve already written about its merits as a song), the record never really makes a run of hit-after-hit.
Instead, Radiate Like This relies on more singular moments and strong B-Sides to diffuse the difference. Perhaps the strongest section goes from “Stevie” to “Altar” but that takes a concerted listen to really dig through what makes these songs special rather than immediate epiphanies.
The result is a solid Warpaint album.
But how long has it been since a solid, end-to-end Warpaint record? I posit it has never happened before. Not even Warpaint, a personal favourite of the lot, worked end-to-end. The opening up of their musicality suggests greater success might follow this record, but I’m not holding my breath.
In fact scratch that prediction; I’ve been burned before.
Radiate Like This is out now via Virgin Music.
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