opinion byBRENDAN FRANK
Ask ten different people what the highest virtue is, and you’ll likely get ten different answers. Ask any member of Warpaint and they would likely tell you that it’s patience. After forming on Valentine’s Day 2004, it took Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa nearly four years to make an EP. And then two and a half years after Exquisite Corpse saw the light of day, came their debut LP The Fool, an album of moody, slow-flowing pop.
But Warpaint’s music is not just a product of patience. The unhurriedness oozes from every note that they write, and demands it from the listener in turn. You could have played The Fool and missed out of half of its pleasures if you were preoccupied with anything else. This steady drip-feed style continues with the sophomore effort Warpaint,an album eager to prove it can succeed with the modest parameters it’s set up for itself. On the eve of their tenth anniversary, the band have yet to grow beyond this model. Rather, they’ve refined it, with rudiments of post-rock and folk stitched into an increasingly somber, polished sound that is never twisted beyond the point of recognition.
It’s probably useful to treat Warpaint as a series of musical movements rather than a set of individual songs – or even an album. The ebb and flow of tension is spread out over long stretches, and you may end up waiting for the payoffs a little longer than expected. After the brief “Intro”, the candlelit “Keep It Healthy” always threatens to smash through but never quite does, electing to pass the baton to “Love Is To Die”. The same pattern can be seen with the muted “Tesse”, while Liars-styled “Disco/Very” ratchets up the tempo without seriously diverting from the overall tone.
Despite the even keel approach, the tar-hearted “Biggy” is a clear standout, while the sedated pace of tracks like “Drive” and “CC” end up accentuating some rickety lyricism: “Guarding so sad/Spending dizzy/Give me more, I haven't had this before”. The words on Warpaint are chanted as often as they’re sung, and obliquely rendered, as if you’ve stumbled onto a séance or a group prayer. Like the album itself, they’re keyed-down, fine-tuned and occasionally impenetrable.
At 51 minutes in length, Warpaint teeters on being overlong; a dozen considered pieces that billow and undulate, the pace rarely breaking away from an obstinate crawl. It is a diffuse album, constantly but immeasurably changing its shape and diverting itself when you attempt to grasp it, like smoke. Warpaint’s epiphanies are minor, its surprises few, but the general immutability alludes to vision rather than a lack of progress. B-