Readers' Choice: Old 97ís: The Grand Theatre Volume 2
Their 2008 self-titled debut went criminally unheralded by most, but, somehow, True Widow's first disc still caught the ears of the people over at New York City-based Kemado Records, who quickly snatched up the group and agreed to release their 2011 mouthful of a follow-up. The second True Widow release isn't much different from the first; it once again moves about as quick as molasses, but scores major points for its loud volume and aesthetic — a sound that the band calls stonegaze because it lies, as you'd expect from the name, just about smack dab between shoegaze and stoner rock. But it is a slightly more focused effort, and maybe a more focus-grouped one too. After taking a backseat throughout much of the band's debut, save for the must-hear "Duelist," bassist Nikki Estill is given a bigger vocal role on the newer effort, her angelic pipes cast in more of a secondary lead role to that of guitarist Dan Phillips. The move was a smart one — the juxtaposition of her sweet vocals to the band's heavy sound and Phillips' own gritty pipes is stunning. Really, though, the band is at its best when all members, including drummer Tim Starks, are cast in equal roles, with Phillips and Estill harmonizing over Starks' restrained beats and with their own instruments filling the holes as need be. Too often, bands that are reliant on excessive volume tend to come off sounding rather harsh; True Widow, especially on their second release, have a remarkable talent for making loud sound beautiful.