Widowspeak – “Plum” Album Review
Returning after a long three-year hiatus, the mesmerizing duo Widowspeak arrives with their fifth studio album “Plum.”
Arguably best known for their track “Harsh Realm,” which appeared on an episode of “American Horror Story,” Widowspeak has been a consistent contributor in the alternative space. Consisting of vocalist Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas, the duo has slowly garnered a name for themselves, thanks to the chemistry between their talents.
Riding off the high of their fourth album “Expect the Best,” which was heralded as a return to the duo’s roots, Widowspeak chose to take a step out of the spotlight for a few years.
The hiatus ends with their latest album “Plum,” which marks a shift in the duo’s direction towards a far more subtle sound. While the two pair up very well and have a sound which feels fairly unique, the group does very little to stray the direction of their album away from the indie cookie cutter.
Leading with the bright “Plum,” Widowspeak kicks off the album with a string of chill, lighthearted grooves. Employing a fun, dancey rhythm backed up by a series of wholesome lyrics, the title track encapsulates all the elements a hit indie song needs to go mainstream, but with Widowspeak’s own signature personal touch.
The album then transitions to the hazy “The Good Ones,” which allows Thomas’ guitar work to take center stage. Pumping in waves of psychedelic rifts, Thomas lays down a solid base to help accentuate Hamilton’s fey voicework.
The following tracks “Money” and “Breadwinner” showcase an interesting evolution in the duo’s lyrical progression. Although the track utilizes the cliché phrase “money doesn’t grow on trees” constantly throughout, “Money” posits an engaging environmentalist message reinforced by a lulling backdrop.
“Breadwinner,” meanwhile, showcases a presentation of the group’s soft-spoken playful lyricism with lines like “Baby, you gotta quit that job/‘Cause your boss is a jerk." The song teasingly plays off the relatable struggles of financial strain with a jovial reassuring melody.
Evidently a front-loaded album, the last solid track on the record is the blissful “Even True Love.” Placing bouncy guitar riffs once again behind Hamilton’s airy voice, the duo is able to squeeze out one last real hit before the album begins to truly fizzle.
“Plum” as a whole suffers from a lack of diversity. While it is interesting to see Widowspeak experiment with a softer sound, the group does very little to prevent the record from sounding monotonous. The duo’s presence on the album seems to be very timid and understated. They never really allow themselves to take center stage except very rarely.
The only track that seemingly attempts to capture the group’s centered sound found on their earlier work is the fledgling “Amy.” However, the song doesn’t know its own identity, as it places several odd chords and instruments up against each other with the tedious repetition of “Amy” being the only cohesive thread throughout.
The following track “Sure Thing” fails to gain any real weight, because the guitar work behind the song builds to a climax that never arrives. The album then ends fairly unceremoniously with the dull “Y2K.”
While it is admirable that the group is transitioning to an effective attempt at a lighter aesthetic, their approach to creating an album that is entirely dedicated to soft tones has resulted in a lack of memorability and a bit of a one-note experience. Several of the opening tracks are able to prevent this sensation, but the latter tracks drop right into this pitfall.
Overall, it is evident that the duo is admirably not trying to be anything more than they already are and have really taken hold of their own niche. That being said, this is also a major weakness for the group because they do not allow themselves to stretch past their base potential.
While Widowspeak can undoubtedly create fun and enjoyable music thanks to their chill vibrant guitar work and noteworthy soft vocals, the duo needs to work harder on providing more of a diverse musical experience for the listener to stay fully engaged.
Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “Plum” and “Breadwinner”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “Amy”
Scott Perdue is a senior majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Secondary Education
Scott Perdue is a student studying secondary education at Penn State University. He is passionate about voice and conversation mediums. He believes that music and film are an important form of communication and enjoys constructively criticizing an artist’s work.