Widowspeak have been introduced to the world as a thoroughly Brooklyn entity, caveats and all – neatly packaging a brief self-titled album of frozen, dissolute shoegaze into a portrait of chic, urbanite posturing, complete with a tremendously hip Captured Tracks sticker. It’s not like they were swerving out of the way. Reducing Widowspeak into simple, ubiquitous aesthetics is pretty easy considering they sound the part.
Misty, nipped ambience and noisy, happenstance drums surround the central coo of Molly Hamilton. She’s locked into a very Hope Sandoval place, all breathy and elusive with maybe a little less of Mazzy Star’s trademark coziness. The half-formed jams on the album don’t do much to distinguish themselves from each other; sunbeam guitar solos are dealt out liberally on the bigger cuts while the slower stuff tends to steer clear of anything outwardly arresting. The melodies are certainly existent (and sometimes even pretty), but maintaining attention is the hard part – strange for an album that runs shorter than a lunch break.
Purely speaking, Widowspeak can go down a little flavourless. The album strives to be a musky, moody presentation, deeply enriched in the similar traditions of Cocteau Twins envelopment or Bauhaus’ creeping sparseness. And while it’ll certainly calls up bands like that, the Widowspeak trio never cast much of their own shadow. Sure, the tightly wound Limbs lurches, the hooky Gun Shy stretches, and the heartsick Harsh Realm slumbers in all the ways we like, but there’s never much of a reason to be impressed.
The frail compositions have the benefit of a good producer and a technical workmanship unfound in most upstarts, but those things are undone in the predictable pitfalls of mediocre songwriting. The influences are solid and perfectly en vogue, but the band fails to pen any highlights. At the end of the day, they end up sounding like three Brooklyn musicians making decidedly Brooklyn music, which is ostensibly the thing they were trying to get away from.
Is there potential for growth here? Maybe. Hamilton is brilliant singer, and for its extensive stigma, Brooklyn isn’t known for a lack of resources. If anything, Widowspeak shouldn’t be treading water for long, which doesn’t necessarily mean their tapped for greatness. Their debut slots into a middling no-man’s land with very few defining characteristics, positive or negative. For now, Widowspeak’s origins are probably the most interesting thing about them.