Warpaint Heads Up Rough Trade
“Cool. Let’s try it,” a member of Warpaint says part way through Heads Up. It’s hard to tell, but the voice might belong to Stella Mozgawa. Since the drummer joined Emily Kokal, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Theresa Wayman in 2009, Warpaint have spoken with a singular, inimitable voice – one that’s defined by that spirit of casual experimentation.
After the dust settled on 2014’s critically celebrated Warpaint, the four-piece spent eighteen months following individual paths. Then, when they reunited for this, their third LP, the band chose to record in pairs – or even solo sessions. It’s a brave new step, and as a result, Warpaint’s trademark singularity has been switched out for songs which amplify the individual personalities of the band’s constituent parts.
Over eleven tracks the record sprawls in a dozen disparate directions, completed by the band’s usual brew of precise, perfect detail and ramshackle, dizzying jam sessions. Soft, eerie hip-hop beats form the backbone of Dre, So Good has a shimmering, unsettling carnival quality that will sound ridiculous live, Don’t Let Go captures the mood of Lindberg’s 2015 solo record right on!, and Today Dear carries echoes of Kokal’s atmospheric home recordings. By Your Side opens with cold, electronic beats, only to melt into familiar Warpaint stoner-psych.
For the most, Heads Up feels as spontaneous and raw as their debut EP – they’ve even revisited Exquisite Corpse’s original producer Jacob Bercoici. Yet New Song, the record’s disappointingly generic, radio-ready single, saw YouTube commenters scrambling to describe the dance-pop sidestep; “Done a Grimes” was a common (misguided) complaint. Although pure pop in isolation, in full album context the single is just another turn in Warpaint’s constant, effervescent shape-shifting. They’re just trying things out.
The strange psychic ties which hold the four-piece close have slackened slightly – for the better. Heads Up is earnest, warm and complicated, and Warpaint have always rewarded patient listeners. Trust them.