SOUR WIDOWS- ‘Sour Widows’
This, the debut record from Sour Widows, is a trojan horse. At first it seems polite, pretty, a handful of petals, as if its slow, folksy tones might blow away in a weak breeze. You might be tempted to stick it on as background music when concentrating on something else entirely. But that’s when Sour Widows will emerge. That’s when they’ll get you. The best new music of the year is hidden here.
The first clue that ‘Sour Widows’ (the album) is more than it might initially appear, comes two minutes into opening track, ‘Tommy’, when Sour Widows (the band) pivot from a loose, airy jam-session sound into something tighter and tenser. You might not even really hear it happen, but you will definitely look up from whatever you’re doing when it does. The intertwined vocals of Maia Sinaiko and Susanna Thomson switch from subtle to urgent, their hazy, gently strummed guitars suddenly splash and roar, and the song crackles with lightning, if only for a moment. It is brief, but it’s beautiful, and it’s brilliant.
Over the next five tracks, this Californian trio do the same kind of thing often and with apparent ease. ‘Whole Lotta Nothing’, my personal favourite, is a paean to doing “jack shit” but feels meticulously constructed. Woozy slowcore beats belie lyrics about plucked eyeballs while screes of feedback and mini guitar solos shower like sparks, and the song overflows with those wandering, drunk kinds of melodies that shouldn’t work at all but wedge themselves into your head for days all the same. ‘Pilot Light’ is a pop song by comparison, but it’s sanded down, or roughed up, or whatever. It’s made into something still sweet but satisfyingly spontaneous. And ‘Open Wide’ turns the line, “There’s no excuses”, into a big, bruising hook that other bands would kill for, before almost immediately abandoning it to embrace a wistful, winding, emo instrumental. There are interesting and brave decisions everywhere here, and they all seem to come off.
Like Duster, or Pile, or maybe Pixies before them, Sour Widows find beauty in the offbeat. They regularly thread together chaos and calm to create truly compelling songs and so much ear candy. They revel in the unexpected. They also sound like no one else I can think of too. Just their own damn selves. Forget blowing away then, there’s no chance of that, these songs have actually arrived fully formed and built to last.