Detoxifying summer soul
Imagine if Portland were a band, and just a bit happier. In latest album Plum, released August 28, folk rock duo Widowspeak epitomize the summery charm, thoughtful self-awareness and leisurely soul of the Pacific Northwest. Plum is an unhurried cruise through untroubled waters that’ll therapize even the most high-strung listeners.
Titular track “Plum”–a relaxed, mid-tempo garden stroll enlivened by a confidently complex guitar melody and wispy vocals–succinctly prefaces Plum’s overall tone. Light, breezy, warm and welcoming on the surface, “Plum” possesses deceptive emotional depth. Singer Molly Hamilton shares her exhaustion with the constant stressors of daily life, expressing a desire to withstand and overcome the inevitable passage of time. Like the rest of us, Hamilton wants to escape the horrors of 2020.
According to Hamilton, ”‘Plum’ [is] about wanting to be more comfortable and casual with thoughts I tend to avoid. Especially when I’m feeling very out-of-step with the world, there’s no use in being nostalgic for ‘the end of an era’ or being afraid of what could happen. But, avoiding the present is kind of my default. I’m trying to be more aware that everyone is on its own trajectory, in its own time, slowly becoming something or becoming nothing.”
On “Money” and “Breadwinner,” Widowspeak gets political. Hamilton disguises weighty critiques of capitalism behind sleepy, summery vibes on both tracks. On “Money,” the singer addresses modern society’s silent complicity when it comes to political protests and environmental activism; on “Breadwinner,” she delves into America’s internalized worship of–and servitude to– the ultra-industrious capitalist machine. Regarding the latter song, Hamilton states: “Now feels like the only time we could possibly let this song into the world, when everyone is trying to figure out life beyond the way we earn a living, and how we’ll earn anything going forward. So, without wanting to capitalize on the heavy realities we’re all facing, we hope it brings some comfort or at least entertainment to people at home.” Amidst the cataclysmic crucible 2020 has become, Hamilton’s words are timelier than ever.
Meanwhile, “Amy” and “Jeanie” are slow-building, wistful folk-rock jams that’ll inspire even the most Type A listeners to take it easy for a few minutes. When it comes to slow-burning jams, however, “The Good Ones” assuredly takes the cake. Featuring a surprisingly groovy base line, an upbeat guitar hook and quintessentially dreamy vocals, “The Good Ones” is exactly what it purports to be.
All in all, Widowspeak’s latest album is a relaxing, undeniably charming lazy river ride that will appeal to cursory and in-depth listeners alike. Despite an undeniably slow pace and ethereal, often drowsy vocals, Plum never feels boring thanks to a lively rhythm section and intricate instrumentation. Plum is an exceptionally revitalizing summer vacation.