Beyond words with Warpaint

Feb 3rd, 2015 | By | Category: Reviews, That's So Last Year


Checking out a record shop in the prototypical college town of Athens, Georgia, about a decade ago, I was captivated by the music coming from the speakers. It turned out to be a new release by Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. I bought the CD, and for the next several days, it was in heavy rotation with the only other CD I had as I drove through the mountains of North Carolina, which seemed to be enveloped in a haze that the music was perfectly suited to.

I found myself enveloped in a similar seductive haze when I first heard Warpaint’s self-titled sophomore album last year. Gossamer vocals floated through the air, lulling me into a state of tranquility every time I played it. By the end of the year, there was no doubt that this was my favorite album of 2014.

And yet … that same seductiveness turned out to be a little maddening when I decided to ferret out just why this album appealed to me so much. After dozens of plays, I had little idea of any of the lyrics (and the ones I could make out didn’t really seem to make any sense). Aside from a track or two that got some airplay and the remix treatment, I could not really talk about individual tracks. That’s because somehow, more than pretty much any other albums I’ve heard recently, this one really feels like an album – that is, a piece cut from the same cloth.

But sit down and really listen to it, and it’s clear that is an oversimplification. Sure, there are some constants on the album, like the vocals that recall that North Carolina smoke. But there is also some grunge underlying the vocals on songs like “Hi.” And other songs, like “Disco/Very” are far more raucous than the overall feel of the album, sounding much more like the Slits than the Cocteau Twins. And yet it does not disrupt the album the way “Cherry Chapstick” drove a wedge into the middle of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.

When I sat down with the lyric sheets to Warpaint, I actually found myself more distanced from the music than I was before I had any idea what they were saying. That’s because while there are glimmers of readily apparent meaning in the lyrics to some songs – and even a touching back story to the lyrics of “Hi” – in most of the songs the words are much more suggestive than illuminating.

In fact, some lyrics from “Keep It Healthy” – the second track, but the first with words – stuck in my head throughout listening to the album: “There’s no words … I thought I was dreaming.”

To me, that is the strength of this album: It’s dream pop in the truest sense of the phrase. It casts a spell that somehow manages to tie together bits of Alice Coltrane and The xx and so many disparate influences and ends up concocting an intoxicating stew. From the opening organ and drums of “Intro” (and its seeming false start) to the jangly guitars that close out the album on “Son,” Warpaint manages to take me away from the everyday every time I play it.


  • Artist: Warpaint
  • Title: Warpaint
  • Year of release: 2014
  • Year of first hearing by writer: 2014
  • Label of original release: Rough Trade
  • Format listened to: Vinyl, FLAC
  • Track listing
  • Purchase from Amazon: Warpaint


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