LABEL : CAPTURED TRACKS
ALBUM IN A SENTENCE : AN ALBUM THAT ASKS ARE WE GOOD? ARE WE ENOUGH? AND DESERVES A FULLY AFFIRMATIVE RESPONSE.
Everything is simple ‘til it’s not. That is a fine lyrical hook from the first single on the new album from Brooklyn’s Widowspeak. It serves well as a starting point for thinking about The Jacket. Set against a really satisfying gentle grunge riff, and beyond the possibility of a song about a souring relationship, there is a wider questing truth in this lyric. How do we rightly respond as societies to the ever deepening complexities and entanglements of city and society? How do we contain a nostalgic impulse towards simpler times? How do we acknowledge that a better world is not built by slogans but by conversation?
You could argue that is an implicit theme on any indie rock album in 2022 and that we should be grateful to Widowspeak for being explicit. It impacts each level and facet of their music on The Jacket. Consider the snaking, twirling riff that circles around the centre of ‘Salt’. It sounds like an effortless slice of indie janglepop. It’s the kind of guitar line that sounds built for the scene where the empathic wallflowers peel from the edges to the dancefloor and take centre stage in an indie movie about a high school prom. It sounds so simple. On some levels it is; to make the type of deep velvety dream pop that Widowspeak work in is to reject the complications of perfection imposed on contemporary pop performers. Widowspeak preach the gospel that two guitars, two chords and a moment are more than enough. That’s not to say though that anything that they have accomplished with The Jacket is easy.
A theme that this album explores is the expectations that we have of ourselves and each other. Opening track ‘While You Wait’ sees the world of instant gratification consumerism from the server’s side rather than the customer. Both ‘Everything is Simple’ and ‘True Blue’ make reference to the need inside each of us, perhaps especially in men, to be perceived as good. There’s the insecurity again. Are we keeping things simple? Are we enough? How do we trust that? What happens if we didn’t get to where we hoped to be? What happens if we didn’t have the drive you need to stand out and be noticed within the chaos of capitalism? Are we still good? Are we still enough?
Listening to The Jacket repeatedly, what strikes is that in asking more questions than answering, Widowspeak have created a companion of an album. Like Faye Webster last year, there will be albums that will create a bigger splash than The Jacket, but it is an album that I can also imagine returning to through the year and wanting to get deeper in conversation with. Melodic and thoughtful, woozy and tender, Widowspeak have created an album that holds its congruences and contradictions and remains enough. The Jacket is a really good album that will reward you for the space you carve in your heart for it.