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Rough Trade – October 2010

Warpaint’s debut album The Fool follows their 2009 Exquisite Corpse EP. The Los Angeles based, all-girl quartet’s first album has been highly anticipated and praised. Having a psychedelic, shoegaze sound with a femme twist seems to get you noticed.

The album sets off with the lo-fi sound of ‘Set Your Arms Down’, akin to fellow post-punk The xx, who they’ve supported. From this tracyou can see why Warpaint are often discussed in comparison with minimalistic female group Dum Dum Girls and the female fronted Best Coast, both of which hail from Los Angeles.

The vocals of Jenny Lee Lindberg are instantly reminiscent of Bjork in pitch and the haunting dimensions of tone and style. The romantic metaphors of ‘Set Your Arms Down’, like “We walk through fire / My love is your flashlight” and the gentle howling along with the music begins the theme of the album. This, however, is not a story of romance but the beginning of the end, of love.

This leads into ‘Warpaint’ which is a faster-paced track, both musically and lyrically. The song is a mild nudge from the former as it takes almost 20 seconds to make any discernible noise before a rhythmic guitar slowly stumbles in.

The layered vocals are easily heard, as both guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman add their similarly ethereal tones to the lyrics with backing vocals. While, alike musically to the gothic, enticing Zola Jesus the drowned delicacy of Warpaint’s voices hold the confusion of emotions that come hand-in-hand with the bitter sweetness of a floundering relationship.

Whereas ‘Undertow’ has angrier more hurt and cutting lyrics “Why do you want to blame me for your troubles? / Ah-ah-ah / You better learn your lesson yourself”. This is maintained beautifully despite the softer texture employed by the vocals.

‘Shadows’ adds to the bitterness of The Fool with the words “I’m drunk and I’m tired”. The intimate singing, acoustic guitar and piano changes their sound somewhat, as they accompany the description of a walk haunted by tainted words and memories like a Cat Marnell article.

The vocals get angrier and more judgemental despite the retention of the tone and overlapping of the vocals. From the rhetorical questions of ‘Composure’, “How can I keep my composure?” to the out-of-sync overlap in ‘Baby’ which echoes like a ghost through to the words “Don’t you call anybody else baby”.

By ‘Majesty’ you realise the light vocals have been drawing you in as the electronic beats arrive. There are electro undercurrents throughout, blurring the genre of the band. The lyrics and tone obscure the meaning, as the wistfully delivered lines “The perfect match” may be construed as ironic, sardonic and full of regret.

The finale ‘Lissie’s Heart Murmur’ is a piano based track and the repeated chorus line “I sink so far down” completes the album appropriately. The track is full of heartfelt disappointment from the unhappy end of a relationship. It’s about hitting bottom, drowning with no hope for return and it drags you lovingly under with it.

Warpaint – ‘Billie Holiday’ (Rough Trade Sessions)

Also posted on InQuire Live.