When I used to go to Reading Festival on a regular basis I used to come home with a list of new bands I wanted to find out a bit more about. When I stopped going last year I expected that to stop but even by watching the TV coverage of the Festival I still seem to discover new bands and this year has been no exception with the band at the top of that list being Warpaint. They did an acoustic set for the BBC and have since started to receive some radio play in conjuction with the release of their debut album The Fool.
Who Are Warpaint
The band is made up of 4 female musicians from Los Angeles. Over the years they have undergone a bit of a line up change since forming in 2004. Three of the band members were childhood friends and from that friendship they started to write and play music. Of the original line up lead vocalists and guitar players Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg are still with the band since their formation. The only major change to the line up was the departure of Jenny's sister Shannyn Sossamon who was replaced on the drums by Stella Mozgawa whilst she concentrated on her acting career.
Defining A Style
The first time I came across Warpaint was doing an acoustic set on TV and whilst it gave me an insight into their ability to write decent songs I wasn't really sure what to expect from their sound. The band have admitted to being heavily influenced by David Bowie and contributed a cover of Ashes to Ashes for a War Child charity record celebrating Bowie's work. As you listen to more of their music there is certainly a heavy influence from Bowie's music and style with the girls describing their own musical style as being psychedelic rock. Their style seems to consist of some very accomplished musical ability mixed with some psychedelic samples that give their music a very unique sound.
As perhaps an indication of the appeal this album is expected to have Radio 1 have recently tipped the band as one of their ones to watch for 2011. The album itself was actually released in October but with airplay steadily increasing towards the end of the year I think it would be fair to say that the band should be expecting big things from 2011. The musical element of each track is sublime with very melodic guitar riffs and solid drum backing especially evident on Composure. The vocals really compliment the musical accompaniment really well and as I've never been a huge fan of female vocalists I find the tones of Kokal and Wayman to be strangely hypnotic.
My first taste of the band came in the form of Undertow, which whilst sounding very different in a more electronic environment seems even better on the album. The slow and purposeful vocals are quite haunting at times but it works really well. The lyrical content of the track is quite deep and meaningful and this is something the album has in abundance. The female vocals really set the music off perfectly on the slower tracks such as Undertow and even on the faster, more upbeat numbers like the self titled Warpaint. Each track seems to have a quite direct and distinctive beat to it and even on the faster tracks the vocals seem to blend in very well.
In fact from the opening guitar strings of opening track Set Your Arms Down it is clear that the girls are intent on bringing something very different to the current music scene. There have been likenesses with this years Mercury Music prize winners The XX but I think that Warpaint are doing something slightly different to all of the other bands around at the moment.
Even when you think you've got a handle on the direction the album is going then things are changed and your perception is realigned by tracks such as Bees. It has a totally different sound to the albums first three tracks but again those pounding drums and rhythmic guitars provide an excellent backdrop for another round of haunting vocals.
One of my favourite tracks on the album has also been announced as one of the first singles. From the opening bars of Shadows it really sets itself above a lot of the albums other tracks. The quiet musical accompaniment to the beautiful vocals really works really well. The slight mixture of samples once the track gets going work equally well and what we have here is a slower, more purposeful track that really captures what the band are about. It's a sound and approach that work equally well in Baby and Majesty as it has on the rest of the album and the reason for their predicted success is quite clear to see.
I think that my biggest worry when it comes to female vocalists is the possibility of them being drowned out by the style of music but with Warpaint the combination of the style and the vocals works superbly. It's perhaps a little slower paced and more experimental than a lot of music I've been listening too recently but it's a style that I'm really warming to. From the opening bars of Set Your Arms Down to the closing moments of Lissie's Heart Murmur it' a slightly different sound but it's one that's consistent and quite touching throughout.
One To Watch
Having listened to the album on a pretty regular basis for the last few weeks I think it is fair to say that Warpaint are going to be big. The combination of strong female vocals with quite calm and serene rock undertones really works well. I had my reservations about the vocals when I first came across Warpaint but as I listened to the CD I found that the vocals reached out more to me with each listen and with beautifully written tracks it is an album I have no hesitation in recommending if you like soft or psychedelic rock music. An excellent debut and I can't wait to hear more from the band.
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Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Set Your Arms Down
9 Lissie's Heart Murmu