Warpaint’s self-titled sophomore album might not strike you as “grrl-rock,” but the members of the L.A.-based band certainly have enough chutzpah to earn the name. On this follow-up to their 2010 full-length debut, The Fool, the women of Warpaint have crafted a refined and cohesive, darkly atmospheric swirl of indie-pop that manages to be at once dreamy and edgy—and that’s no small feat.
The most memorable part of Warpaint is its coherence: from start to finish, the album maintains a somber, brooding tone, while taking maneuvers and detours throughout its rather vague, abstract progression. The album begins, appropriately, with a track titled “Introduction,” an instrumental opener with raw percussion and slightly eerie, shivering effects over a moody bass. “Keep It Healthy” and “Love Is To Die” feature cascading arpeggios and light guitars, with smooth, breathy vocals from vocalists/guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman. Organic guitar interludes create a dreamy, diaphanous sound brought back to earth only by drummer Stella Mozgawa’s insistent beats.
In fact, it’s the percussion that anchors much of the airy, nebulous album—on the minimalist “Hi,” which begins with spare vocals, it’s not until the slick, machine-like drums come in that the song really takes off. And the light, shaken percussion on “Biggy” complements its heavy, distorted synths and delicate vocals. “Go In,” likewise, has a shuffling beat that slows it down, to meander along with the plodding bass and washed-out vocals. But the real standout is “Disco // very,” a hooky, percussive tune with more attitude than the rest of the record combined. Warpaint spit droning, synthed-out, violent vocals (“Like cyanide / It’s poison / She’ll eat you alive / We’ll kill you / Rip you up and tear you into…”) above a slick bass and a toe-tapping, swaggering beat.
Despite the relative bluster of “Disco // very,” the album exudes, overall, a saturnine, morose mood in its dour, ethereal pop. This comes through most on “Teese,” a mostly acoustic track featuring harmonized, haunting group vocals, and on the closing track, the piano ballad “Son.” While Warpaint isn’t a revolutionary album, it does show the promise—if subtly—that Warpaint have good things up their collective sleeve.