KEXP @ CMJ 2011, Day 2: Widowspeak

photos by Brittney Bush Bolly and Victoria VanBruinisse

Brooklyn three-piece band Widowspeak play delicate and often desolate indie pop highlighted by front woman Molly Hamilton’s airy vocals that have drawn favorable comparisons to Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. Originally from Tacoma, Hamilton and drummer Michael Stasiak moved to Brooklyn in 2010 where they started playing with guitarist Robert Earl Thomas. The collaboration resulted in a demo tape that caught the attention of Brooklyn label Captured Tracks, who released the single “Harsh Realm” earlier this year. A self-titled full-length debut followed in August, and the band has since been touring in support of the album. In addition to their KEXP set at the Ace Hotel, presented by Toyota Free Yr Radio, Widowspeak will be playing October 20 (TONIGHT!) at Littlefield in Brooklyn.

The crowd in the lobby of the Ace Hotel was a little sparse for the first performance of Thursday’s action, and those that were in attendance were either drinking coffee, waiting in line at the hotel’s adjunct Stumptown, or waiting grumpily for said line to shorten. At 10:30, however, all attention turned to the Brooklyn three-piece and their soft, sweet indie pop that ended up being the perfect music to usher the hungover among us into the day. A lot has been said about lead woman Molly Hamilton’s delicate, airy, and seemingly effortless vocals, and while it’s true that her voice was about as pleasing to the ear as it gets, guitarist Robert Earl Thomas is the reason Widowspeak aren’t just another soft indie pop band – his licks are simple, twangy, surf-y, desolate, carefully chosen, and mesh well with Hamilton’s rhythm guitar and vocals. The highlight of the set for me was it’s closing song, “Nightcrawlers,” which saw Widowspeak at their most spirited and energetic, with the song’s relative instrumental heaviness complimenting Hamilton’s voice beautifully.

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