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Album Review
Heads Up

Heads Up
by Warpaint

Rough Trade

Review Date
5th October 2016
Reviewed by
Stefanie Keyworth

Since banding together in 2004, Warpaint have consistently displayed a knack for playing with darker shades. Over the course of two albums, 2010's debut The Fool and 2014's self-titled effort, the LA-based group evolved their aesthetic from haunting psychedelia to an austere trip-hop influenced sound, all the while eliciting a certain mood that was hypnotic but far from dull. With their third album, Heads Up, another stylistic shift was certainly expected - however pre-release single ‘New Song’ worryingly suggested that Warpaint would now make the type of music that warns me which clothing stores aren't right for me.

You might anticipate as a higher energy track 'New Song' would bring the chemistry of bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and drummer Stella Mozgawa to the forefront, but the single rather diminishes their abilities to a weary four-to-the-floor rhythm and a calculated structure that quickly forces the lyrics to go from cute to annoying… annoying like those dolphin-esque synths that peep up throughout. It’s an unfortunate choice that ultimately undermines the true developments on the album.

With their driving rhythms and stacked melodies, songs like ‘Above Control’ and the title-track are stronger examples of the Warpaint “pop song”, with ominous charm still intact. ‘Dre’ and ‘Don’t Wanna’ are amongst their most experimental and downbeat efforts on the record, and proof that you can make a strong impact with a minimalist approach. Mozgawa pulls double duty throughout, building layers of electronic and acoustic drums, yet there is equal weight on each player’s contributions. The interplay between the four musicians is a constant marvel.

With subtle samples and flourishes, Heads Up reintroduces the texture that defined their debut The Fool, while expanding the palette of their sophomore record - thanks to their self-confessed hip hop influences that include Kendrick Lamar, Q-Tip and Erykah Badu. And so, it comes as both a relief and a disappointment that ‘New Song’ is a complete anomaly on the album: A relief because it fails to exhibit the band’s strengths and a disappointment because it completely disrupts the otherwise careful sequencing and deliberate aesthetic of the album. With that exception, Heads Upis Warpaint at their most refined and varied.


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