Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas make up Widowspeak an Indie Rock duo from Brooklyn. They have a certain vintage vibe to their music much like Thee Oh Sees but more grounded and eerier. Certain bands (Daughter) in most recent years sound as thought they are traveling down some lagoon, the stars shining above, the noise of crickets in the distance and crocodiles silently swimming past, but what happens when the boat they are traveling on becomes stuck in overgrowth or seaweed as the travelers begin to panic, well this is the music if you can imagine it that far.
Widowspeakʼs The Swamps is easily classed as a dark folk album that is permeated by beautiful and eery tracks continuing the imagery of the dark forest and opaque swamp with the use of sounds from frogs to birds all becoming instruments themselves, mixed together with dreamy vocals and hazy reverb, fully creating hypnotising and unique songs.
The Swamps is a bridge between the duoʼs second and third album, hinting at the tone and structure of their next venture.The first song is a no lyric track that instantly sets off the mood of the E.P with the use of mysterious humming and that wondrous dark twang of the guitar which then fades into an acoustic melancholic piece washing in and out with subtle drumming. The third track (and one of the best of the six) ‘Calico’ is a moody blues tune that slithers with deep south folk and at times has slight tinges of The Animalsʼ House of the Rising Sun. The track is driven by seductive guitars with the use of the sweet and astral vocals of Hamilton that progresses into the chanting of “Calico, Calico, Calico.” This song really boasts Widowspeakʼs ability and skill at arranging a pretty straight forward song until it expands and swells in volume until it surprisingly simmers down to almost silence towards the conclusion of the song.
“Baby can we play dead.” sings Hamilton in ‘Brass Bed’, the track is almost jarring in contrast to the rest of the E.P, a more upbeat yet still has a mysterious atmosphere to it. Though the track does detract from the atmosphere placed before, it however is excellent when listened to as a singular song. The luscious harmonies, playful piano and the vibrant guitars.
Much like ‘Brass Bed’ the song ‘True Believer’ shares the same problem of being out-of-place but to less of an extent than the former but both pieces lament the sweet yet bitter air of romance. Widowspeak push their sound on ‘True Believer’ to a warm and lush direction much like Brass Bed though they should be set to a tropical background. The last song on the E.P The Swamps finishes off the job that the first song starts off, the album comes round full circle, with the same melodic humming and the same nodding rhythm.
This is an E.P that listeners should close their eyes and really soak in the sounds, the vocal reverbs, the broody guitars. This is truly a collection of songs that should be on a soundtrack whether on-screen or in the listeners head. What Widowspeak have done is create a group of songs that are dense and dramatic, they have created an intense atmosphere.
The album truly resonates with the title of the E.P itʼs earthy blues tone mashed together with acoustic guitars. Hamilton with her high and echoed chants and noises resemble some sort of crying animal in the distance. Though there are no actual sounds of Crickets chirping recorded, The Swamps is so cleverly produced that it does sound as though they are an addition to the songs. You feel the sweat and heat radiating from Thomasʼ acoustic guitar, you feel Hamiltonʼs torture as she sings “Teach myself to slow down and stop running out.” and then suddenly and sadly itʼs all over, you are no longer sitting in that boat traveling down the swamp, your back in your bedroom, your car, where ever you listen to music. Every time you listen, you will be back in the Swamps of Louisiana, allowing every sound coat you, as you sink into the sound, and youʼre going to want to do it again and again.