Sometimes you happen to stumble upon something that speaks to you, and that is just my favorite. It feels like the opposite of, say, internet dating. It feels like serendipity. I’m not the most decisive person in the world (I may, in fact, be the least decisive person in the world). “Sourcing” anything likable is a bit of a time suck. So I guess if I gush about something, it’s only that I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say, decisively, I LIKE this.
Music is one of the hardest things to like. I love a lot of it, but when it comes to “discovering new music,” idk. Fuck that. The space is just so saturated. “New” music doesn’t mean “released yesterday,” necessarily. “New” includes everything in a canon that has expanded exponentially for centuries upon centuries. Just think of contemporary music…I mean, how do you even define it? Music production has been democratized (thanks, technology!) and talent defers to taste, mostly. But sometimes something relevant just sort of falls in your lap, and that, again, is my favorite thing.
I’m a pretty hooked on this band Widowspeak at the moment. I’m not even sure how I actually found it (Spotify maybe had something to do with it. Thanks again, tech). If my fantasy life had a soundtrack, this would about be it. It’s a tie-in to all the things I’m latching on to lately: the woods, upstate NY (home turf), nature, nostalgia. They’ve got some cool-looking, classic “jangly” guitars and the vocals are plain pretty. To be honest, breathy vocals generally irk me out, but for some reason I’m into it here. I think Molly Hamilton (I just Googled her–we are not acquainted, nor am I music journalist) is someone who can pull off that style without it seeming like much too much of a schtick.
I made it my mission to see Widowspeak at Union Pool today. I’m glad I did. Union Pool is the last place I felt like being by myself on a Saturday (in shorty-shorts, no less). Luckily, it was a daytime event, not too crowded, and mostly attended by quirky gals in vintage-store garb plus lolling couples. There were also a few children. Kids make me happy because they always seem to have the answer to Just Living And Being. It seems odd to openly watch other peoples’ offspring in public as if they were cute zoo animals….I should not.
All of Widowspeak’s songs seem sort of like a tribute to modern Romanticism. I think if you were to define Romanticism today, it would be necessarily steeped in nostalgia. We are still young enough to assimilate romantic ideals woven into our culture. However, these ideals seem more and more like a mirage in a century-plus that has, in many ways, witnessed the demise of the individual and a staggering loss of of humanity. There is a definite element of mourning. I also think nature is more a part of Romanticism than ever—the mossy lover we cling to all the more, knowing that it’s already fading from us. That’s my generally-pessimistic take on it, anyway.
Almost every track on the band’s three albums strikes a chord. Calico is surely the ‘hit single’ off their latest release, Swamps. This video for In the Pines is basically the recurring fantasy I’ve had since I was a teen reading books about nature witches and chalice-enable time travel (what? did I just admit that?). I also love the campyness of the ballad, “Minnewaska” off Almanac. This is in no small part because I have fond memories of spending time “on the shores of lake Minnewaska” as a kid. But because I’m a sucker for sadness, the one song I adore the most is a cover of the 1989 smash hit “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak.
Just for fun, here is the original Chris Isaak version. The song was actually not a smash hit and only became popular after David Lynch stuck it in Wild at Heart (Wiki-ed that shit. Thanks again, internet). There’s something deeply strange about this video. It’s like a Calvin Klein ad gone super serious: Male model/boy band-esque singer in a wife beater, engulfed by clouds. Top model Helena Christensen running around topless in granny panties. Sentimental caresses that you cannot quite take seriously. Emotional confusion may ensue:
PS – is it “widows peak” or “widow’s peak”? Discuss.