Warpaint – Warpaint

by Jack Reid

This all-girl rock band from California (no, not Haim) are among that crop that never found a surge of hype. Instead, Warpaint have been bubbling under the surface since their debut EP, Exquisite Corpse, in 2007. Since then, they have been putting out sexy, atmospheric rock with a kind of jam rock feel.

They have doubled down on the jam vibes on this release. From the Intro, it’s clear that this album composition is centered solidly around live performance and organic progression, as we hear the first breakbeat being sketched out under studio chatters from the band’s members. Another thing that’s pretty clear from the first crisp hits of that drum fill is how precise the production on this album is, courtesy of Nigel Godrich of Radiohead and Atoms For Peace. In fact, there are echoes of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi in those first few bars. The track blends seamlessly into Keep It Healthy, and Emily Kokal’s vocals pick us up and remind us we’re listening to Warpaint.

Listening to the richness of Biggy, noticing the gentle rocking sensation of a well-chosen synth stab, and getting lost in those incredibly long verses, you realise how far Warpaint have come. These girls still have the same very distinct DNA that they started with, but along the way they’ve traded in some of the rawness for smooth sexiness, for finesse and an eye for compositional detail. For much of the album, Warpaint now almost sound like lounge music, albeit for a Manhattan sky lounge. They do break from that mode to give us a little landscaping to the record however, first all with Teese; a more morse track.

Next, there’s Disco/Very. This track is a perfect example of how Warpaint are getting the hang of a driving bassline. Like the name would suggest, we get a song that vaguely follows a darker disco theme, in a similar vein to Reflektor. However, Warpaint’s slant on dark-disco is far more trippy, dynamic, and eccentric. Around the 3:30 mark, we’re getting whacked-out vocals that seem to be improvising on a theme, and that hi-hat-heavy beat shuffles out to a close. It’s a stunning song, and an anchor for the whole release.

This album does suffer from listener’s fatigue, however. After a while, I found myself yearning for a punchy drumbeat to cut through the atmopheric fog of this album’s lesser tracks. By the end of a listen through, I certainly found myself wishing that maybe they had gone back over their material in a more structured way. But maybe I’m just not into jam bands…