Dreamy atmosphere and gorgeous harmonies on first album in six years weave their way into your heart, feeling like welcoming back an old friend
Warpaint‘s last album, Heads Up, was released back in 2016, an era that now literally seems like a different world. In those six long years, the quartet have seen many changes: motherhood, solo careers (bassist Jenny Lee Lingberg released her second solo album just last month), and relocation (drummer Stella Mozgawa has returned to her homeland of Australia).
You’d expect with this amount of flux that the band’s fourth album would sound a bit disjointed, but the opposite seems to be true. Within just a few moments of listening to Radiate Like This, it’s clear that this is an album very much rooted in the Warpaint sound: the dreamy, almost narcotic atmosphere, the gorgeous harmonies, Linberg’s fluid bass interacting beautifully with Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman’s intricate guitar work. It’s like welcoming back an old friend.
So while there may be no surprises held on Radiate Like This, that’s not a bad thing: indeed, the band’s time away from each other seems to have re-energised them. Opening track Champion sounds like a call to arms (albeit a rather laid back one): a tribute to self-assurance and self-confidence as lyrics such as “I’m an ocean, breathing in and out, I’m a million years old, I’m a champion”.
Stevie could be designed for soundtracking lazy, hazy summer days – Kokal and Wayman’s guitars almost shimmer as Kokal sings of a lover who’s “down and dirty, you are one freaky mother”. They’re lyrics that you could imagine the likes of Prince singing, but they oddly fit beautifully into the mellow slow-jam that Warpaint create here.
Like a lot of albums in the post-pandemic age, Radiate Like This wasn’t recorded in the traditional manner of jamming in the studio – instead, each member had to record their separate contributions which were then put together digitally. It’s a tribute to the band’s long-term engineer Sam Petts-Davies, here taking on production duties with the band, that the results sound just as fluid and natural as if it had been recorded in the studio.
Although the tempo never really rises beyond a mid-paced trot, there are plenty of individual highlights to wallow in: Mozgawa’s strident percussion on Altar, the nagging vocal lines and skittish, hyperactive beats on the standout Hips, and the gloriously languid sound of Melting which demonstrates the band’s trademark harmonies to beautiful effect.
Their lyrics are still relatively abstract, but there’s a stream of desire bubbling under tracks such as Like Sweetness, while Altar talks of a lover who can “open me like a flower”. Closing track, the stripped-down acoustic ballad Send Nudes just suggests “send a couple of nudes baby, have a cup of noodles with me baby” as the album drifts off to a close.
While some may find the almost gossamer light touch a bit insubstantial, repeated plays will find Radiate Like This weaving its way into your heart. Despite it being a long time in the making, it almost feels like Warpaint have never been away. Hopefully, their next album will find its way to us in a rather quicker timespan.