Widowspeak has grown up in a lot of ways. The band's third album, All Yours, is one that could only come from Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas: a honed and elegant interweaving of dream-pop and slowcore rock and roll, easygoing melodies and dusty, snaking guitars. It's also their finest release to date: ten beautiful songs that are refreshingly straightforward yet built from the same well-chosen and deftly-used tools the band has always worked with.
All Yours is ambitious without feeling labored-over, anchored in the strengths of Widowspeak's consistent influences. There are those familiar Morricone-come-Verlaine guitar passages, moody and country-tinged instrumentation, watery tremolo, velvety stacked vocals. You can hear Molly's affection for The Cranberries and The Sundays in the wavering melodies of "Dead Love" or "Girls," and Rob's adoration of George Harrison and Robbie Robertson in his brilliantly economical guitar playing. The result is an aesthetically diverse and profoundly nostalgic sound; indebted to past eras without feeling dated. Since they came on the scene five years ago, the band has seen many permanent changes: new lineups, new environments. Instead of bringing additional permanent members into the fold after the departure of its founding drummer, the band was whittled down to a duo, a lineup that has remained constant since 2012.
After releasing a second LP, Almanac, and The Swamps EP (both in 2013), Molly and Rob left Brooklyn for the (quite literally) greener pastures of the Catskills/Hudson Valley region. They found a house they could play music in. They got a dog.And they took their damn time making All Yours. For one, the conceptual process of writing Almanac and The Swamps had been creatively draining. They focused on other things: Molly went back to school; Rob took a job at a Catskills hotel. They wrote leisurely, from shared voice memos and late night jams in the living room. As a result of writing down what came naturally, without any overarching vision, the lyrics on All Yours are largely unadorned, the songs connected only by the forgivingly vague theme of "Moving on." Appropriately, the band chose to work again with Jarvis Taveniere, who produced their self-titled debut in 2011. They also enlisted him and drummer Aaron Neveu (both of whom play in Woods) as the studio rhythm section. The presence of Taveniere and Neveu contributes a groove that wasn't there previously, and there's a few other new things: the swell of strings at critical moments, and for the first time, voices beyond Molly's own. We finally get to hear Rob sing in the earnestly laid-back "Borrowed World." Members of psych outfit Quilt contribute harmonies and keys throughout the record, most notably in "Baby's Gonna Carry On," and "Cosmically Aligned."
Perhaps All Yours is so refreshing because it's a return to form. It's a record that feels as effortlessly unplanned as their debut, that serves to capture a moment rather than create one.