The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: Warpaint – ‘Heads Up’ (Rough Trade)

  • 7/10
    - 7/10


Despite areas of ‘Heads Up’ being more accessible than its predecessor, Warpaint continue to reap rewards from their intricate playing style.

Throughout the last few years, L.A. indie quartet Warpaint have provided music fans with an ever-recurring foundation for debate. Back in 2014, their self-titled second album was released after having enjoyed an extensive stretch of media hype, placing the band at the focal point of the public eye. Although the record undeniably caught the fancy of a respectably sized audience, many remained resolutely unsatisfied with the final result. Whilst some were left pleasantly stirred by Warpaint’s unconventional beat and melody arrangements, others fuelled criticism proclaiming their desire to be musically unorthodox thwarted the band’s gleaming potential. Now two years on, Warpaint have returned with a third instalment to their back catalogue. Their new record, Heads Up not only reignites the on-going feud between differing opinions but also marks a significant development to Warpaint’s often Marmite approach to song writing.

In what looks like an attempt to compromise with opposing attitudes and boost artist exposure, Heads Up surfaces bearing a far more ‘single friendly’ approach – despite not having filmed any music videos as yet. Though the last record was certainly consistent, there were no defining pop elements for casual listeners to digest. Heads Up appropriately amends this with aptly titled lead single ‘New Song’. In a totally unanticipated shift to defiantly catchy disco pop, ‘New Song’ tells a story of how finding new love is closely comparable to having a great song stuck in your head. Maybe it sounds a little cringe-worthy but its delivery comes with little opportunity for criticism and indicates the workings of an appropriately compelling pop song.

Although the long-term Warpaint fans may feel somewhat abandoned by Heads Up’s newfound pop appeal, listening to the record in its entirety proves Warpaint’s loyalty to the integrity of their music remains. Despite areas of the album being more accessible than usual, Warpaint continue to reap rewards from their intricate playing style. Clean production techniques and broody, ambient basslines sonically colour Heads Up throughout whilst the stop/start percussion provides the necessary groove. The bounce of ‘So Good’ offers further potential for an infectious second single opportunity whilst ‘Don’t Wanna’ darkly resonates within itself through Emily Kokal’s stimulating vocal repeatedly stating, “Don’t wanna define myself”.

Warpaint’s well-calculated realisation that they can appeal to a wider audience by stripping very little of their sonic identity illustrates a band now comfortable in enhancing their sound to the maximum commercial potential that it can offer. Heads Up offers listeners with a variety of talking points to further satisfy the on-going Warpaint debate and it’ll certainly be interesting to see where the arguments delve into this time around. (7/10) (Ollie Rankine)

Listen to Heads Up here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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