Time passes. This is an indisputable fact, and if you’re anything like me, you might even worry that your favorite music might outgrow you – not the other way around – but that our beloved artists might find themselves maturing down a much more different twisted path while we head in the opposite direction, yet still finding ourselves begging to ride along their coattails, refusing to let go. We certainly don’t grow and evolve the same way, nevertheless on the same timelines, and it’s natural for us to drift away from or towards certain sounds the older we get. Warpaint brings us their third studio album, Heads Up, with the notion that it’s okay to grow up – as long as we expand into new territory and forge the path for those coming after us as we do so.
The LA quartet continues to find ways to make the old feel brand new again, in a way only they can. The current lineup all headed in different directions (yet still hovering around the same circle) in 2015, focusing on different solo projects for the first time since the band’s formation. Bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg released her debut solo album, Right On!, described as “shoegaze” and “gothic rock” all in the same breath. Vocalist Emily Kokal collaborated with LA folk musician Paul Bergmann on his EP Romantic Thoughts, a dreamy ode meant to cure that aching heart after a summer fling. Drummer Stella Mozgawa recorded and toured with Kurt Vile as well as some sessions for Adam Green’s Aladdin. Vocalist and guitarist Theresa Wayman formed BOSS with All We Are bassist Guro Gikling and Hot Chip drummer Sarah Jones, a supergroup that only tends to exist in dreams. As Lindberg tells Consequence of Sound in their latest interview, “Everybody was allowed to have their space, time and creative freedom with songs and figure out, ‘I wonder what the best notes would be? I wonder what the best part would be to play?’ Everybody got to sit and go, ‘What do I want to do on this? What’s my part? What’s my role? How can I make it the best?’”
Yet all of them managed to converge a fresh, distinct perspective on Heads Up, a eleven-track pop dream that reminds us why we love Warpaint. A much less guitar-driven sound and a much more layered haze of vocals and hypnotic beats, it makes sense that it was produced by LA’s very own Jacob Bercovici (of Julian Casablancas + The Voidz fame) who brought us much-loved Warpaint EP Exquisite Corpse as well as the 2015 single “No Way Out’/’I’ll Start Believing”. As a fan of Bercovici’s producer work and anything that relies heavily on distortion in general, it’s worth noting that Warpaint’s distinct attention to detail shows that they know what they’re doing – always one step ahead of us.
Although it feels much more like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive album, each one is pretty much the definition of a banger. Stand-out track “By Your Side” is as far-removed from Warpaint’s typical sound as it could be, and yet it still retains that dreamy quality we could only expect them to deliver. In a move that mirrors their naming of the tune “Biggy” from 2014 self-titled release, track “Dre” provides homage to one of their favorite artists perhaps only by name, but remains a solid up-beat track that manages to merge together new with old.
We may be growing up, but Warpaint is taking us with them – as Kokal croons on lead single “White Out”, “Is there a question not answered in your mind? Before you know the answer, you’re running out of time.” Indeed. Heads Up has been released via Rough Trade Records on September 23 – get your hands on a digital, CD or LP copy of it here.