Widowspeak’s eponymous debut album had a seductive wooziness to it, with an edge of smoky darkness. That shoegazing sleepiness is still there on the follow-up, especially in the sweet-but-vague vocal style of Molly Hamilton, but in Almanac it’s less creepy; there are more momentous guitars pushing the songs forward, so the effect is like someone stumbling, hungover, into a fairground on the beach. ‘Perennials’, ‘Locusts’ and ‘Dyed in the Wool’ are danceable; ‘The Dark Age’ ultimately surpasses its title – “You know nothing stays the same, gotta keep yourself straight” – overcoming darkness, in an understated way. ‘Minnewaska’ is slower and sweeter, reminding me of Allo Darlin’s ‘Let’s Go Swimming’, with a ghostly chorus.
There is a self-consciousness about the mood Widowspeak are creating here – a kind of languid rebellion – and sometimes I wanted to startle them out of their apathetic coolness, which in ‘Thick As Thieves’ and ‘Spirit Is Willing’ gradually brings the songs to a standstill. It would be great to see them mingle this hazy beauty with moments of vocal urgency and passion, but this is an undeniably beguiling dream-world. ‘Ballad of the Golden Hour’ sings “If we live till we’re long in the teeth, we’ll only dream of how it used to be, we could never stay forever”, effortlessly conjuring a long, hot summer, a shimmering mirage. Widowspeak are great at creating a level of atmosphere that’s almost an environment, somewhere you could retreat to and lie down for a while. “A change was on its way, but we’d already stopped listening”: ‘Storm King’ is not much like a storm in full swing, more like the still, humid pressure before the rain starts to fall.
Words: Becky Varley-Winter