Widowspeak - The Jacket (Captured Tracks)

Widowspeak – The Jacket (Captured Tracks)

Picture the scene.  You’re digging through your wardrobe, rooting around in the back where you haven’t looked in years.  Then suddenly you find it, buried at the back.  Your old leather jacket, still smelling faintly of aftershave and cigarettes with a ticket stub for a show you went to 10 years ago in the pocket.  This is the feeling that is evoked all across Widowpeak’s new aptly named album, The Jacket.

However, this is not something that the band is new to.  The duo of Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas (along with their fellow band members who play with them live) have been creating nostalgic indie rock for the past decade.  This latest entry is a continuation from their previous album, 2020’s Plum, however, where Plum had a mostly soft, summery feel this latest instalment has a darker, moodier feel.

The Jacket does, though, start easy enough.  The first track, ‘While You Wait’, opens with breathy, ethereal pan pipes over laid back guitars.  It’s a perfect accompaniment to Hamilton’s dreamy, siren like voice.  That is an aspect of the project that should have a moment taken to appreciate.  Hamilton’s singing truly is a highlight of the album.  Both effortless and perfectly controlled.  Her voice, both comforting and delicate makes one feel like a young child being soothed by their mother.  It is a great compliment to the album’s softer moments as well as a relaxing contrast to its darker, harsher points.

Not that The Jacket ever becomes too dark, Widowspeak use darkness more as a tone rather than a colour.  They won’t have songs drowning in distortion or feedback but rather use an overdriven guitar line within a track to punctuate it and contrast the rest of the calmer instrumentation.  Two key examples are the aforementioned opener where fuzzy guitar chords are used to accentuate the chorus and in the album’s second track, ‘Everything Is Simple’, which features a stabbing, erratic guitar line in the final third that is so reminiscent of Lou Reed one could be forgiven that he had come back to life to feature on the song.

But as was discussed earlier, this is all part of Widowpeak’s aesthetic.  Revitalising old sounds for a modern audience.  Another clear example is the Monkees-like organ on the album’s closer, ‘Sleeper’, which is paired with guitars that sound straight out of Nashville.  Hamilton’s voice also picks up a Southern twang mentioning Texas and snakes creating a laid-back finish to the project.

However, astute readers may have picked up on something.  When describing the songs there is certainly a theme that comes to mind: laid-back, dreamy, soft.  This could be used to describe the vast majority of the album.  True, it has its darker moments, but they are only just that, moments, fleeting ones.  This comes to the biggest problem with the album, its pacing.

If I were to be positive, I would say that the album is relaxed, like gently floating down a river on a hot summer’s day.  If I were to be negative, I would say it is lethargic, like trekking through mud on a hot summer’s day.  Either way, the pace does not change much throughout the project’s runtime which is where it will really separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of fans of the album.

If you approach it in the right mood and looking for a low-key rock album that doesn’t challenge you too much.  If you like the idea of cruising down the interstate in a convertible mustang or have fantasies of living inside a low budget indie film.  Then this is just the right LP for you.  But, if you’re looking for something a bit more out there and in your face.  Something that’s going to melt your brain into a thin jelly that you can drink back up with a straw.  Then this album will do little but leave you aggravated and confused as to why you’re listening to music that’s played in the changing rooms at Urban Outfitters.

However, all of my tongue-in-cheek ribbing of The Jacket shouldn’t take away anything from it.  It is an incredibly solid collection of tracks with good song writing, good lyrics and good production.  But that’s the rub, while it’s all good, it never really surpasses that.  It never ascends to the upper echelons of brilliance or really sticks and resonates in one’s mind.  At the end of the day its just like your old, familiar leather jacket.  You like wearing it and you like what it reminds you of but when you take it off you’re just going to put it back in the dark crevices of your cupboard, where it’ll wait to be found in another 10 years.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.