The most striking thing about Warpaint’s latest offering Heads Up is its confidence – both in the music itself and its lyrics. Having firmly established themselves as masters of guitar and harmony-driven ethereal intensity over the course of their first two albums, the chance to explore new sonic possibility has been grasped with both hands.
There’s still lots of atmospheric, late-night walking-appropriate tracks that swirl around you but now we see trip-hoppy breakbeats in ‘Dre’ and a stronger (although secondary) electronic undertone across the album. Funk too proves key to the energy of lead single ‘New Song’ (following the tone of the previous album’s ‘Disco//very’). It’s upbeat, dance inducing and accessible – and certainly the closest thing to a pop track on the album.
‘New Song’ isn’t alone in its funk-inspired groove – ‘So Good’ takes it up a notch, still catchy but here more swagger-filled than liberated. We see this weight manifest itself in different ways across the album. ‘By Your Side’ is bitingly accusatory: multiple vocal layers on lyrics like “Do you think she knew it all along/She lied/She’s a liar” are juxtaposed with the completely assured “I’ve got my girls/I’m not alone.” Whoever’s on the receiving end had better watch out. Variations of this kind of authority ripple through the rest of the album’s lyrics. Phrases like “Don’t wanna define myself” in ‘Don’t Wanna’ or “Get out of my life” in ‘Above Control’ build in a mantra-esque fashion to an unshakeable clarity of how things stand.
The album as a whole feels darker than its predecessors, the energy more smoky and subtle with the exception of the more funk driven tracks, which makes it perhaps a little harder to fall for. But if Warpaint are living in the in-between, the shadows and shades, then the acoustic-leaning, gently fuzzy closer ‘Today Dear’ is the dawn. In asserting “I have no fear my dear today/no moment will pass me by” and asking, “Why would you give up right now when you can stay and fight?” they’re offering a call to arms – where presence, perseverance and belief are our weapons.