Album Review: Widowspeak – All Yours




  • digital
  • vinyl
  • cd

On their third album, Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas walk out of their own fog. As Widowspeak, the duo made their mark beginning in 2010 with an idiosyncratic blend of widescreen Americana and frosty shoegaze. They used to be big fans of the word “cinematic” to describe their own work. The pair largely wade out of both pools they used to draw from with All Yours, which lolls in a mellow nostalgia tinted by the pains of heartbreak.

Compared to Widowspeak’s 2013 releases, Almanac and the EP The Swamps, All Yours positions itself more directly in the frame of unadorned indie rock, grazing the edges of Real Estate and early Rilo Kiley. Hamilton sings in the same relaxed timbre she’s always used, but her voice comes through more clearly in this album’s mix. She’s not wafting over to you from across an idyllic American landscape; she’s in the passenger seat of your car, murmuring to you about this guy she used to love.

Hamilton passes through the empty chambers of an abandoned relationship throughout All Yours, a modifying phrase that’s used in the past tense during the album’s opening title track. She sees the places where she used to walk when coupled, and she mourns them because they now belong to her ex — they belong to her pain. The fire that burned that bridge has long been extinguished, but she’s still staring at the char, imagining what used to be. “Wanted to be asleep in the backseat/ Then I wake up and I’m still a thousand miles east/ From where you’ll be,” she sings on “Narrows”.

On the quicker, pricklier “Stoned”, Hamilton weighs the early days of that lost love with the regret it left in its wake. “When I was with you, I was/ So sure you were something new,” she muses. “I felt stoned.” She’s using that word in a good way — “It felt like velvet, and it felt like home,” she sings — but you get the sense that she’s also fretting over the time she lost with someone who didn’t stick around. When the high wears off, it doesn’t leave you with much to show for it.

Thomas jumps in front of the microphone for the first time in Widowspeak’s tenure for “Borrowed World”, doing his best Neil Halstead impression over a brisk backbeat and a few distant wails of slide guitar. “Always feel like I’m running/ And they haven’t caught me yet,” he sings without too much urgency. Like the rest of the album, “Borrowed World” hints at anxiety in its lyrics without embodying it in the music, like Thomas is retelling the sprint from a half-remembered dream.

There’s some amount of comfort in wrapping thorny memories of breakups and breakdowns in easy, lightweight tunes. All Yours doesn’t demand much of its players or its listeners, and sometimes that’s the treatment a breakup album needs. But it also gives the album a feeling of transience, of drifting by like a summer day where nothing much happens in particular. Its mood is warm and inviting, but it barely has enough heft to stick with you past the season.

Essential Tracks: “All Yours”, “Narrows”, and “Stoned”