Widowspeak with Moon Tide Gallery and Novelty Dream
Quote from Widowspeak on “Everything is Simple” – At the beginning of something (a relationship, a project, a job, a new place) you have this very pure feeling toward it. Everything feels less complicated because you’re oriented wholly toward that potential. It’s undefined, and that makes it easier to understand, because you can’t see the problems yet. As time goes on, you learn more, you experience more, and you see where the limitations exist: not even necessarily ones imposed upon you, but where you draw your own lines. Maybe you can’t see what was holding you back until it’s in the past, and by then others’ perspectives contradict your own. Everyone is constructing their own versions of reality. The song was originally going to feed into the drama of the imaginary band, but it’s about our own band too. I was thinking about how I’m an inherently unreliable narrator about my own life, and at the same time maybe there are no “true” stories.
Written in the months before and after the release of their critically acclaimed 2020 album Plum, The Jacket feels like a full-circle moment for the duo. Thematically, it considers Plum’s broader questions about the values ascribed to one’s time and labor through the more refined lens of performance and music-making. This is due in part to the band’s recent return to New York City, the site of their own origin story, where they recorded The Jacket at the Diamond Mine with co-producer and noted Daptone Records affiliate Homer Steinweiss. In addition to Hamilton and Thomas on guitars, the album features founding drummer Michael Stasiak, as well as J.D. Sumner on bass, and piano and keyboard contributions from Michael Hess.
Sonically, The Jacket finds the band at their usual and best: the album breathes deeply, balancing moments of open lushness with a straightforward, Velvets-y approach. Dynamics shift seamlessly between gentle, drifting ballads and twangy jams, built up from layered guitars, dusty percussion and ambling bass lines. Elsewhere: whimsical flutes, choral textures, and basement organs. Thomas’s guitar playing is as lyrical and emotive as it’s ever been, and Hamilton’s voice: comfortable and effortless. This seamless dynamic is amplified perfectly in the mix by Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House). The band still wears the same perennial influences on its sleeve: cornerstones like Yo La Tengo, Neil Young, Cowboy Junkies, Cat Power, and Richard and Linda Thompson. They expertly pepper in slow-core, dream-pop, pacific northwest indie, and outlaw country, resulting in a 60s-meets-90s aesthetic. But the duo also wield their own aesthetic feedback loop as a tool of its own, a way to better tell multi-layered stories in their own RIYL language. This sense of sonic nostalgia adds another layer to lyrics that reflect on old selves, invented and true.
The Jacket is a present and comfortable record, imbued with a sense of collective pause and the ease of a band at the top of their game. For all its familiar textures, it still feels entirely fresh within that canon: proudly a guitar record, a rock record, a songwriter’s record. A Widowspeak record.