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Warpaint's self-titled album comes out Jan. 21. (Courtesy of the artist)

First Listen: Warpaint, 'Warpaint'

Jan 12, 2014

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Stephen Thompson

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A few years back, the band Low sold T-shirts emblazoned with a fine unofficial motto for its music: "I don't like cool, I like beautiful." For the four women who make up Warpaint, those two qualities aren't mutually exclusive: The L.A. group's swirling sound is full of mysterious buzzes and coos, and there's a sense of everything-in-its-right-place grace and impeccability to it, yet the songs themselves never feel icy or distant. Warpaint's self-titled second album feels fashionable, sure, but not at the expense of approachability.

That may be the product of an essential contradiction at Warpaint's core: It's a band that both feels new — its full-length debut, The Fool, came out in 2010 — and has 10 years of shared experience behind it. Far too many artists get served up to the public before their sound has matured fully; in a time of instantaneous worldwide distribution, even good ones often get heard before they've recorded more than a handful of songs. But the women of Warpaint are veteran pros, and they sound like it.

The result is an album that captures both discipline and seemingly easy creative sprawl. Its songs smear together seamlessly and often beautifully, with real craftsmanship and artistic ambition: At 51 minutes, it feels like a complete album more than a loose assortment of MP3s. (Though "Biggy" and the slinky "Love Is to Die" have already served the latter purpose nicely.) Warpaint is indeed both cool and beautiful — an awfully formidable combination from an awfully formidable band.

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