Today Widowspeak share their sixth studio album via Captured Tracks. In addition to the album release, the band has shared a short documentary, called “The Band is Called Widowspeak,” shot on film, directed by Michael Stasiak, about the making of the record, their influences, and rediscovering the heart of New York.
LISTEN TO THE JACKET – HERE
Widowspeak on The Jacket: To us, “The Jacket” feels like the most natural expression of all the ideas and sounds and influences we’ve been exploring since we started, and how we work together. The songs just felt right, and came really easily to us after finishing “Plum”. Maybe the “concept” was abandoned but it provided a framework to think about our origins, and consider what it is that makes us keep doing this, or where we might go. One big theme of this album is that people, and their motivations, are complex: there’s no one side of the story, no singular way to be, and it’s hard to fully know someone. In a band, you’re intertwined with others and necessarily trusting in that shared experience, but that perspective is also sort of a foil for examining other relationships and connections, jobs and endeavors, and thinking about what it means to have dreams for the future in any context.
WATCH SHORT DOC “THE BAND IS CALLED WIDOWSPEAK” HERE
Quote from director Michael Stasiak: “There’s a moment in this little movie where Molly says that the songs on The Jacket tell a story about having trust in the people you’re collaborating with, that they want and value the same things. Trust is the twist in the knot, the cord that binds the Widowspeak world. The period of time when I shot this footage–from January through June of 2021–felt like time travel, because it was so similar to the rhythms of our lives when Widowspeak first started: running all around the city with Molly and Rob, hanging out and sharing songs we liked, biking to rehearsals, talking about bands and what it means to be one, dashing to odd jobs or classes…but mostly that joyous feeling of sharing trust inside a dark practice space, and riding towards a common goal.
I shot everything using a Beaulieu R16, which is an old French 16mm movie camera from the ’60s. Molly and Rob’s performance of “Everything is Simple” at the end of the movie was filmed on the Flushing Bay Promenade in Queens, NY, inside of an elegant pair of atomic-age fiberglass structures that were erected as exhibit spaces for the 1964 World’s Fair.”
The Jacket started out with loose strings of a concept, a story about a fictional band:
A chain-stitcher working in the satin district of an unnamed city, a neighborhood of storefront tailors devoted to elaborate costumery for country-western, art rock, ye-ye cover bands that populate the street’s bars after dark. The narrator joins one such outfit, “Le Tex” and feels a sense of belonging and momentum, movement beyond what was previously a stable, predictable life. A relationship with a bandmate materializes. Eventually, the group start to write originals. They generate goodwill and momentum, and venture out on the open road seeking new opportunities beyond what the satin district can offer. But the vibrational energy that got things moving is the same that shakes the whole thing apart: the relationship, and the band, disintegrate upon finally reaching their destination, the end of the road. The chain-stitcher heads back to the city, settling back into the rhythm of work, old standards and a familiar place.
The story is self-referential on purpose: it speaks to the absurdity of ego, codependency and shared visions even as it celebrates them. The Jacket finds Widowspeak navigating these contradictions, and although its ten tracks now trace a more abstract arc than the campier initial concept, strands of that earlier narrative remain: “stitches in satin”, American cities after dark, glimpses of the open road, dark bars, and backstages where things get left behind. The resulting album is a wizened meditation on performance and past lives from a band who’ve seen their fair share, hitting their stride now over a decade in.
Written in the months before and after the release of their critically acclaimed 2020 album Plum, The Jacket feels like a full-circle moment for the duo. Thematically, it considers Plum’s broader questions about the values ascribed to one’s time and labor through the more refined lens of performance and music-making. This is due in part to the band’s recent return to New York City, the site of their own origin story, where they recorded The Jacket at the Diamond Mine with co-producer and noted Daptone Records affiliate Homer Steinweiss. In addition to Hamilton and Thomas on guitars, the album features founding drummer Michael Stasiak, as well as J.D. Sumner on bass, and piano and keyboard contributions from Michael Hess.
Sonically, The Jacket finds the band at their usual and best: the album breathes deeply, balancing moments of open lushness with a straightforward, Velvets-y approach. Dynamics shift seamlessly between gentle, drifting ballads and twangy jams, built up from layered guitars, dusty percussion and ambling bass lines. Elsewhere: whimsical flutes, choral textures, and basement organs. Thomas’s guitar playing is as lyrical and emotive as it’s ever been, and Hamilton’s voice: comfortable and effortless. This seamless dynamic is amplified perfectly in the mix by Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House). The band still wears the same perennial influences on its sleeve: cornerstones like Yo La Tengo, Neil Young, Cowboy Junkies, Cat Power, and Richard and Linda Thompson. They expertly pepper in slow-core, dream-pop, pacific northwest indie, and outlaw country, resulting in a 60s-meets-90s aesthetic. But the duo also wield their own aesthetic feedback loop as a tool of its own, a way to better tell multi-layered stories in their own RIYL language. This sense of sonic nostalgia adds another layer to lyrics that reflect on old selves, invented and true.
The Jacket is a present and comfortable record, imbued with a sense of collective pause and the ease of a band at the top of their game. For all its familiar textures, it still feels entirely fresh within that canon: proudly a guitar record, a rock record, a songwriter’s record. A Widowspeak record.