Alright, we’re going to fess up. While we love Warpaint and love how Undertow took over the world, we weren’t too sold on their comeback single, Love is to Die. The world’s favourite all-girl alt-rock group haven’t really recaptured the wonder of their debut, instead delivering something that is really quite the cumbersome ordeal – Keep It Healthy has that same unmemorable feeling as the lead single, while a song like Hi seems an unfortunate case of dull beats over anything else. Apart from Biggy and Teese, the general take-home from Warpaint is ennui (as the huge misstep that is Disco/Very will testify). Lose the over-production, ladies, and bring us back some of that dreamy guitar asap.
Marissa Nadler has always been a funny one for us. Not ha-ha – she’s a bit dour for that – but more peculiar in the fact that she has some outstanding songs (The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You is still a wonder), but we never really find ourselves running to her back catalogue. That’s changed with July. The opener alone (Drive) is one of her finest works, evoking at times the best of Mazzy Star but retaining Nadler’s idiosyncrasies. In an ideal world, haunting songs like Desire and Fireworks would be bestowed the same praise reserved for an act like Lana Del Rey, but then again Nadler does one better. With July, she’s established herself right up there with Neko Case and Cat Power as one of the finest alternative singer-songwriters America has ever produced.
Hot on the heels of Marissa Nadler is a similar occupant of that musical space, Missouri’s Angel Olsen. Given a few more albums (Burn Your Fire is only her second) and she could well join that hallowed singer-songwriter canon; songs like Unfucktheworld unfurl with simmering passion, while Hi-Five struts out like a trucker leaving a roadside diner in the Midwest. Like Nadler, Olsen can do a downbeat haunt (White Fire) along with her rollicking guitar licks – she might still be a bit rough in places, but between this album and Nadler’s there really is a spectacular choice of female songwriters out there. Just listen to Lights Out and you’ll see.