Will 2011 be the year of the true indie female artiste? I'm not talking about Adele, Lily, Florence, Duffy or Rumer here, but the truly creative and strong making their own music the way they want. This is a torch that PJ Harvey has had to bare herself for too long. Well no more as artistes such as Anna Calvi and Lykke Li powered into 2011 ploughing their own and very distinctive furrows. Running with them now is all girl combo Warpaint. The problem (or good thing) is that with Harvey reaching a new zenith with "Let England Shake", Calvi's stunning eponymous debut and Li's inventive powerhouse "Wounded Rhymes" the bar has been set very high indeed, but it is a bar that Warpaint's "The Fool" clears albeit with a bit of a trailing leg.
Formed in LA by Oregon childhood friends Emily Kokal and Teresa Wayman (both vocals and guitar) with Jenny Lee Lindburg (bass), Warpaint have been around for quite some years, but only now with the addition of Ausi Stella Mozgawa on drums do they have an established complete line-up. I don't know, or even care if Mozgawa was brought in to keep it "all girl", but they certainly haven't compromised: the musicianship is top notch.
From the go, with "Set down your arms" its about mood, and the mood is ethereal. I am not talking gloopy Cocteau Twins or Mostly Autumn here, this has a dangerous edgyness to it. This album is certainly best appreciated as an entity, and is not for cherry picking, "Composure", for example sounds awkward on its own, but as the midpoint of "The Fool" it sounds perfect. In fact in the context of the opus, every single track is very strong. This is Warpaint's very own sound, gaining in confidence and daring from the more accessible EP Exquisite Corpse they have moved further in their own direction. Kokal and Wayman's ghostly harmonies and guitar styles work superbly with Jenny Lee Lindberg's intricate bass and Mozgawa's clever rhythms to establish the right feeling in the listener. The album is so beautifully constructed that by the end the band's own distinctive sound becomes very accessible and rewarding. And that trailing leg, the vocals from both girls sometimes don't quite work for me, however it is an occasional and mostly insignificant flaw that detracts little from the enjoyment.