Widowspeak, a three-piece with Washington State roots and Brooklyn addresses, are notable for the clichés they avoid. Singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton has a cushy, languid drawl, the elongation of her words easily comparable to noted note-stretcher Hope Sandoval. But where Mazzy Star kept things at a crawl to wring every last drop of dreaminess from Hope, Widowspeak's instrumentation is quick and bright, with guitars sometimes surly, sometimes surf-y. They laudably refrain from the converse extreme of pairing her airy singing with alt-rock crunch, as a more grandiose band like the Joy Formidable might. There's plenty of drama in a lower-key juxtaposition.
The band's self-titled debut, recorded by Woods' Jarvis Taveniere, sounds cleaner than a lot of the records Captured Tracks puts out. Hamilton's voice is the draw, and though it's multi-tracked and layered in spots, it isn't reverbed out to infinity. On super peppy numbers like the Northwest pun-titled "Fir Coat," she just floats over the crisp rhythms and hook-y riffs, making everything seem more elegant. On the similarly evergreen-inspired "In the Pines" (might be a Washington two-fer, actually, adding in some youthful Nirvana Unplugged exposure) the guitars are just a touch rougher than expected, nudging her slow singing into something of a power-waltz. To critique, it's truer to say that Widowspeak has stumbled on to an appealing sound than to say they've written a batch of airtight songs, but that's true of so many promising young bands that the exceptions are practically cause for spontaneous break dancing. No head spins here, but Widowspeak is plenty nice.