I remember when Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas arrived on the music scene some five years ago as Widowspeak, entering quietly into the mass foray with their fabulous self-titled debut. There was an easiness to which they created their dream-folk sound – or what they characterize as cowboy grunge, dream country, or earthtone pop. Whatever one wishes to call Widowspeak’s music, Hamilton and Thomas demonstrated a remarkable ability to turn simplicity into brilliance. Their sophomore album, Almanac, saw the Brooklyn-based duo aim higher, adopting a more widescreen approach to transform the dreamy music into an ethereal experience, yet the ease to which they create music remained.
On their third full-length, All Yours, Widowspeak have gone “back-to-basics”, taking a more simplified approach that hums with the celestial beauty of Mazzy Starr – from Hamilton’s lush, whispery vocals to Thomas’ cool restraint on the guitar. As such, All Yours still has that carefree, summery feeling, but don’t let the music fool you – this is Widowspeak’s most personal and vulnerable record to date. It’s an album that showcases the duo’s continued progression as artists. It also reflects the impact the two-year break had on them, where the time off allowed them to concentrate on their lives outside of music – Hamilton returned to school and Thomas took a job in the Catskills – and, thus, reassess where they are professionally and personally.
The one track that highlights the introspective nature of Widowspeak’s songwriting is the gorgeous “Girls” that sees Hamilton contemplate her place in the world compared to other women. The two songs that open the album, “All Yours” and “Narrows”, act as companion pieces with the terrific transition between the two, but they speak to different issues – the former about a relationship and the latter about taking chances. Both are warm and mesmerizing tunes with the latter stunningly breathtaking with Thomas’ skillful finger-plucking and Hamilton’s voice rising above the music.
“Dead Love (So Still)” echos of the duo’s debut album – a midtempo, trippy, head-bobbing number that features a touch of George Harrison psychedelia and a fantastic bassline. Speaking of basslines, “My Baby’s Gonna Carry On” has a terrific one on this warm, dreamy track that beckons of the late ’60s and early ’70s. “Stoned” retains the dreamy psychedelic feel, which perfectly matches the song’s focus on innocence.
A real treat on the album is hearing Thomas assume the lead. Channeling vocally and lyrically Dan Bejar (of Destroyer and The New Pornographers fame), Thomas shares his constant battle of following behind on the terrific folk-pop tune “Borrowed”, where time, money, and everything else is being borrowed. It’s a great song, but where Widowspeak really shine is on the melodic and solemn tunes that captivate mind as a result of the lushness of the music and Hamilton’s angelic voice.
On the closer “Hands”, all these elements come together and the hazy mood is aided by the quiet addition of strings. The dreamy quality of the sound augments the imagery presented by Hamilton repeating, “Hands holding up the sun” – a sense of optimism and unity. The song, too, gives the sense that All Yours is just the beginning of something new for Widowspeak, that the best is still yet to come.
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