Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2010: Number 21

Warpaint first served notice of their slowed down, spooked sustainability with last year's Exquisite Corpse EP, in the wider scheme of things both helped and hindered by being a set of two year old songs coming out just as sometime touring partners the XX were breaking big with a vaguely similar mysterious, dissonant stillness. At a fuller length, The Fool exposes more of the big empty spaces around which guitars prowl, but for that it feels like a natural progression, more showy than their south London bretheren, more prone to vocal grandstanding and, crucially, far from afraid of exploding into technicolour shades and shapes. With nothing under four minutes all album Warpaint can afford to give their songs proper room to breathe and develop within.

While this clearly sounds like a definition of the term, what do we mean by dreampop? Here it's a mess of contradictions, spacious but busy where it wants to be, vocally ethereal but stern when required as on Undertow's slow rising reverbed menace, snake hipped in the interplay but not afraid to slow down and reverberate. Most of the reference points - restrained Smiths, Cure, Mazzy Star - are well thumbed but arranged in fresh ways so they don't sound directly photocopied, the three women up front seemingly naturally tight, seductively slithering around in both the harmonies and the half submerged guitar lines and remaining tantalisingly just this side of enigmatic without ever fully giving in to art climes. They can do fragility (Baby's Jeff Buckley-ish folk balladry), they can do louchely arranged (Composure's backing shouting choir, stumbling emergence into sunlight and slow dissolve), and they sound perfectly comfortable wherever. It's hard to tell precisely what they're about, but that might be half the point. What we can say is their command of serene discomfort is deeply, impressively effective.



The full list

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