The storied path of Warpaint’s self-titled album is nearly four years in the making, following the band’s release of The Fool in 2010. The following year drummer Stella Mozgawa informed NME Magazine that the band’s creative process was far more collaborative than it was in the past, and signaling to fans that they were wasting no time in working on a new album.
Adding to the overall intrigue was the announcement that Flood would serve as the album’s producer, noted for his work with artists such as Nine Inch Nails, PJ Harvey, and Sigur Rós, as well as skilled sonic auteur, Nigel Godrich – producer for Radiohead – who assisted in mixing two songs for the album.
In the course of 12 tracks, the band doesn’t hesitate to explore avenues of sensuality and stripped-down arrangements that embrace the mysterious, never revealing their intentions in the simplest of terms, but in a hypnotic manner that places you in the mindset that you’re traveling along the endless stream of thoughts from each of these intimate narratives.
Emily Kokal, guitarist Teresa Wayman, and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg’s evocative vocals serve as an appropriate medium to guide listeners along this compelling journey of isolation and self-discovery, channeling elements of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and Tori Amos – artists known for their ability to psychologically disarm listeners at a moment’s notice.
Within each track, the skilled vocalists draw from a seemingly bottomless well of expression in each of their vocal nuances, perfectly suiting the sophisticated soundscapes each member provides along along the way.
Consider the album’s first single, “Love is to Die”, when Teresa effortlessly handles the gravity of the eponymous chorus, bending her voice with such anguish when she hits the word, “die”. The upward slide is uncomfortable, coming from left field after a display of beauty a mere three words beforehand.
The vocal delivery remains at this level of emotional precision all throughout, never skipping a beat, or losing your interest.
In “Biggy”, Emily captures the longing to find one’s self (TRUE FEELING runs across my chest/In my silence there’s a color I never see/The sunrise is finding me), and also expresses the struggle to be independent in “Drive” (And I am not waiting for somebody else/And I wanna’ believe it/I WANT IT, I NEED IT).
Yet, these songs represent more than clichés of a longing for love, or a partner to complete one’s life.
Rather, the central message is that it is only through the aftermath of the breakdowns do the revelations arise. It is only through our ambitious failures that we manage to find the strength to truly work towards becoming who we envision ourselves to be – a message that is balanced all throughout and delivered with powerful conviction.
The album comes at a time where more than ever, it is crucial to break free of traditions that emphasize that completion only comes with being with someone else, or having a significant amount of money, or winning the genetic lottery , as opposed to acceptance within one’s self, and being at peace with the moment, the past and eventually the future.
The implementation of these philosophical elements, the poetic composition of the lyrics, and the stream-of-consciousness delivery insists that there is clearly a deeper context beneath the words soaring through the chilled air, and more about the words that remain locked away in silence, represented by the influence of various vocal styles beyond the indie rock fare, such as R&B and rap.
Those concerned with the very notion of any of the vocalists rapping, or trying to be an overtly-sexual crooners can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing there is nothing cartoonish in the delivery of these tense moments of confrontation – especially apparent in tracks such as “CC”, “Hi”, and “Disco//very”.
As each track plays out, there is a clear-cut understanding for the purpose of each of these genres in the broader context of the album’s overarching themes.
Warpaint does not take this approach to utilize certain elements of R&B and rap as a gimmick, but rather as an appropriate expression of their multi-faceted personalities, demanding “Give me more, GIVE ME MORE” with the controlled intensity of Jenny Lee’s vocal delivery amplified by the otherworldly effects of Teresa’s distorted collage of noise conflicting with the synthesizer harmonies Emily adds into the mix, and Jenny’s own bass guitar rhythms tracking alongside Stella’s heavy drum set combinations.
These tracks are the perfect representation of the band’s namesake, as you imagine the group adorned in clothing befitting of their personalities, walking in slow motion, and simply not giving two fucks about the naysayers.
A near-perfect blend of themes that everyone can relate to on a deeply personal level, offering the opportunity to discover something new each and every time.