Published Oct 23, 2013Brooklyn-based quartet Widowspeak laid down a smooth set at the Electric Owl this evening, braving a dense fog that blanketed Vancouver. The fog lent an air of eeriness to their cowboy grunge sound, and seemed a perfect metaphor for the breathy vocals of lead singer Molly Hamilton. With bassist Willy Muse and drummer James Jano locking down the rhythms, the retrained guitar of Robert Earl Thomas punctuated their cinematic Americana with bursts of fervent shredding. while Hamilton's gauzy vocals drifted gently over their collective efforts.
They kicked the show off with the lamenting ballad "Perennials," the opening track from their recent Captured Tracks album Almanac. Thomas immediately began swaying and grooving, while Jano moved his head as if it was sliding around loose on his shoulders and Muse maintained his cool mystique. The sly smirks shared between Jano and Muse, the same self-satisfied smiles that curled across the face of Hamilton between songs, betrayed the pure joy of performance in which they were reveling.
Thomas's nervous pacing and shots of animated strumming added a simmering quality to their otherwise sparse, downtempo folk rock. This contrasted with the personality of Hamilton, whose banter was so soft-spoken and reverb-drenched that it was difficult to discern a word she said. Where Thomas ate up the spotlight, Hamilton came across as sheepish, dressed in black from head to toe as if trying to disappear in the dimly lit venue. At one point, she brushed her hair aside, and then jokingly pushed it back to cover her face completely. And yet, despite her reservation, she sang the encore solo, performing "Limbs" from their self-titled 2011 debut album with just her voice and her electric guitar.
Overall, they were respectably tight, but their sound didn't change much from song to song. As a result, their overbearing consistency rode the line between meditation and monotony. It's possible they missed the variety that former touring multi-instrumentalist Dylan Trevelyn used to deliver, but, the whatever the reason, they needed to do a little more to make it stick.