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"Undertow" was one of the highlights from Warpaint's debut album The Fool, and it still describes and defines their sneakily captivating approach and appeal. Their songs circle around themselves like smoke, creating a seductive haze. On Warpaint, the band gives more shape to that haze without sacrificing any of its delicate beauty, an effect echoed by the layered, mirage-like photos of Chris Cunningham's gorgeous artwork. The album arrives four years after The Fool, during which time the women of Warpaint concentrated on connecting with each other as a band. The results are a group that sounds more cohesive and more adventurous, whether it's on the dub-tinged bassline on "Hi," the lounge-y drums on "Go In," or "Drive"'s bubbly electronic percussion. Similarly, Warpaint's bigger, more polished sound emphasizes that at their best, this band can set a mood like few others. Many of these songs beg to be played by candlelight, particularly the swooning former single "Love Is to Die" and "Biggy," where Theresa Wayman's vocals float above the dense drones of her bandmates. Still, Warpaint is at its best when there's some tension amidst its misty sounds. There's a raw frankness and hunger to the band's sensuality on "Teese" and "CC" -- where Wayman purrs "Give me more/I haven't had this before" -- that gives a much-needed edge to their gossamer music. There's an undeniably darker cast to these songs than on Warpaint's previous releases, even on seemingly uplifting songs like "Feeling Alright," where a poignant melody gives its witchy pop an achingly romantic feel akin to Blonde Redhead. Not all of the band's efforts to give their music more structure work -- "Disco//Very"'s shrilly chanted vocals and droning repetition aren't as bold as they could be or as transporting as the rest of the album -- but when they do, it makes their music more immediate and more haunting. Expansive and enveloping at the same time, this set of songs puts Warpaint's past and future in perfect balance -- one of the best things a band can do on their second album.
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