Dreamy and dizzy, Widowspeak offer something a little more substantial than their last effort. We still have the lazy guitar lines and hazy vocals, but there is a darker edge and a stronger bite to Almanac than there ever was on their self-titled first release. The stronger guitar tone and bolder use of effects build a braver, progressive second record for the New York band.
If you were to add a Brian Eno level of production and a good dose of Woodstock to The Jesus and Mary Chain, you would be somewhere closer to the sound of Widowspeak on this album. Often using folky bass under a combination of soft and harsh guitars, Molly Hamilton’s vocals don’t offer soaring melodies, but a darker reverb buried under the mix that adds an often subtly sinister element to the music. ‘Thick As Thieves’ and ‘The Dark Age’ are both totally transformed by Hamilton’s voice; if it were removed you would be left with a fairly pleasant instrumental, but its inclusion adds a sudden unsettledness that draws you instantly in.
While Almanac is much more driven than Widowspeak’s previous album, it does drift. A number of tracks, like the disappointingly titled closer ‘Storm King’, fail to leave a lasting impression, and while atmospheric, don’t stay lodged in your mind making you wish for more. If the shoegazing had at times been replaced for a few more upbeat tunes, Almanac would have made a greater impact. Rhythm-driven tracks ‘Devil Knows’ and ‘Spirit Is Willing’ show Widowspeak’s greatest skill – in creating memorable but still atmospheric songs which don’t fade from memory as soon you hit pause.
Immersive yet catchy, although somewhat muddled, Widowspeak have come out on top with their second album. Stronger and richer with a sense of purpose, and still retaining their likable trademark shoegazing atmosphere, Almanac is the sound of a band moving on. They may not have quite reached their destination, but are coming close.By Chris Bennigsen