With Plum, the songwriting partnership rooted in the creative rapport between bandleader Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas continues to expand on shared visions, delving deeper into what was always there: dusty guitars, ear-worm melodies, warm expansive arrangements. Each entry to their catalog has marked a subtle reimagining of Widowspeak’s sound, though perennial points of reference remain the same: 90’s dream pop, 60’s psych rock, a certain unshakeable Pacific-Northwestness. Speaking to the timeless feeling of each, the albums continue to be discovered well beyond their respective PR cycles, made beloved by new listeners through word of mouth.
The band’s fifth album feels comfortable and lived-in: humble in structure, heavy on mood. Perhaps that came taking time off from the touring grind, instead working full-time jobs and settling into the rhythm of daily life in a small upstate New York town. Plum was recorded over a handful of weekends last winter by Sam Evian (Cass McCombs, Kazu Makino, Hannah Cohen) at his Flying Cloud studio in the Catskills, and was mixed by Ali Chant (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, Perfume Genius). In addition to Hamilton (vocals, guitar) and Thomas (guitars, bass, synth), it features instrumental contributions by Andy Weaver (drums), Michael Hess (piano), and Sam himself (bass, synth). Plum nestles into the band’s canon like it was always there, but with new textures coming to the fore, like the polyrhythmic pulse of Amy and The Good Ones, or the watery, Terry Riley-influenced track Jeanie.
Plum navigates the spaces between the lesser emotions of modern life. Hamilton’s lyrics speak to the unique turmoil of anyone who creates as their work, who must somehow survive off such “fruits of their labor.” Yet, Widowspeak have always made a bitter pill much easier to swallow. The majestic Breadwinner, the luminous Even True Love – these songs here were made to be listened to, enjoyed. Money is particularly hypnotic, built around a repeating, cyclical motif that serves as both skeleton and body. “Will you get back what you put in?” Hamilton asks over an insistent guitar riff. The line is delivered with a knowingness that transcends its surface critiques of late-stage capitalism, asking both herself and the listener whether this is, in fact, the world we want to live in. Through Plum, Widowspeak have brought something into the world that seems to know its own worth, even as it wonders aloud about what is to come. What value and meaning do we assign ourselves, our time, and how do we spend it?