It’s official – girls do music better than guys. It’s something that’s been clear in pop music for some time, with most of the big names and exciting new acts being female. And now, with the likes of Warpaint, Haim and Savages, women are kicking rock music back into gear, a genre that’s traditionally masculine. ‘Warpaint’ is the second album from the LA, all-female, four-piece and the self-title is a clear statement of their confidence.
As with their debut, ‘The Fool’, Warpaint’s sound merges shoegaze and psychedelia into a hypnotic haze of woozy guitars that slowly unfurls and weaves its magic. The album was produced by Flood (whose work includes PJ Harvey, Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails amongst others) and mixed by Nigel Godrich (who worked with Radiohead), their influence immediately apparent in the album’s heavy mood and experimental feel. Hi, for instance, wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘OK Computer’ with its fuzzy, menacing bass and space-age outro. Indeed, it’s the bass that most often gives each track its character: from the squelching electronics of Biggy, to the walking bass of Go In that lends an experimental jazz flavour. Add to that the free-form structure and abstract nature of each track, and it’s easy to get swept along by this heady, intoxicating music – an elderly neighbour of the band even complained to the police of the noise, claiming it was causing nausea.
Most of all, though, it’s the dreamy vocals of Emily Kokal that draw in the listener. In a high breathless voice she sings her muffled lyrics smothered in creepy reverb and delay, weaving snake-like around each melody. It’s at once deeply sensual yet disturbingly eerie; deliciously chromatic yet distant and haunting.
The twelve tracks of ‘Warpaint’ are just different enough within the band’s aesthetic, from the dark Intro, to the gentle acoustic opening of Teese, and the beautifully evocative (and more electronic) Drive. Love Is To Die stands out as the closest the band have come to a pop song with its hooky chorus, but for the most part the music blurs into one smoky atmosphere. It’s for this reason that some criticise the band of making background music.
Yet it’s the transporting, slow-burning nature of their sound that sets the band apart from their peers. Sure, they might not have the immediate, energetic impact of Savages or the pop hooks of Haim, but ‘Warpaint’ slowly coils around your ears and refuses to let go.
* Love Is To Die
Listen: 'Warpaint' is available now.