It’s gotta be a hard task to follow up a critically acclaimed, hit-full record like Widowspeak’s 2020 album, Plum—an album that won me and countless others over to their clever-chill music that is now a hinge pin of this generation’s indie rock. The way they do it is to lean into what they know best, vocalist Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas’ impeccable chemistry and songs about the life of a band, forming at home, hitting the road, and getting home and breaking up in a surprising toned down, Cowboy Junkies’ influenced, ten track album.
In line with the title of the record, Jacket, and the persuasive importance of something like fashion to the music world and the world in general, the first song, “While You Wait,” starts with a chain stitcher working in the satin district of an unnamed city. “Someone was up, working in the quiet / And now it’s broken by their morning song.” Music’s influence is all around us, and Widowspeak have felt the call for many years. But they know that they’re singing songs for us ordinary folk, back home. And their ordinary selves, when their back home off the road.
“Everything is simple till it’s not / learned to love the ropes when you were caught,” Hamilton sings on the second track, which recalls for me Mac Miller’s far-reaching song, “The world is so small / til it ain’t.” It seems to be a sly nod to the complexity of commingling our lives with others that comes with live performance and touring. “Singers tend to hide the truth / Oh, you hear it, if it speaks to you / But what do you expect? It serves them well / to edit anything that’s fit to tell.” This album, however, seems to be a deep reach for songs that tell the truth without a facade. Songs about things like, “Spinning like a tape that’s warped, but you still hang on to it.”
Music related scenes appear throughout the album, like on the beautifully guitar-lead rich eighth song, “Slow Dance.” “Slow dance in the spotlight / Just quarter of midnight, you checked the time / all of those adoring eyes on you.” Throughout, Hamilton has a smoother, quieter voice than on previous albums: smooth as, well, silk. Something like Mazzy Star’s generation-defining anthem, “Fade Into You.” They seem to back off the hit seeking on this album, in favor of telling a good story, though “Unwind” is probably the song that would most fit onto an album like Plum.
The album comes to an end with the cool, bass-thumping, “Forget It.” “Came in for a landing, put the wheels down.” And the last song, “Sleeper,” finds them driving home, “So I’ll turn off the highway at my exit / And I’m still singing Yellow Rose of Texas / And my street still looks the same / In six months, I won’t hear your name.” Everything goes back to “normal,” the intimacy of a band on the road is broken, but the final question persists, “How can I help you? / What do you need?”
It is an album that is not showy, but seems to rely on the trust they’ve built with previous albums. It plays like an autobiography, a band memoir, self-referential, as songwriters tend to be, but with plenty a moment of goosebump inducing musical synergy and imagery and phraseology that could soundtrack the faithful fan’s own uniquely adventurous life. It’s not a Plum, and it’s not supposed to be. It’s a record by a band, who love all that writing and performing music entails, and who know how to connect with their audience, for the short but life-changing time that they’re allowed.
Order The Jacket by Widowspeak HERE