The last time Warpaint released a record, in September 2016, Donald Trump had never been President, nobody had heard of TikTok, Billie Eilish was a viral Soundcloud sensation and COVID-19 was still three years away from changing the world. Having been indie-rock favourites since their debut ‘The Fool’ in 2010, Warpaint feel synonymous with that culture of the first half of the ‘10s – when cerebral, genre-blending alt. sounds became more mainstream.
After these ultra-accelerated six years – during which time the group have taken a break to pursue other projects and focus on their personal lives – one might think they could flounder finding their footing again. But as they prove with their triumphant fourth album ‘Radiate Like This’, a great band doesn’t need to be tied to any moment, only in touch with each other and themselves.
And it’s obvious they are – as they’ll emphasise in any interview, the Californian quartet are still best friends, and their hearts belong to Warpaint. It’s appropriate that they rang in this new era with ‘Champion’, the first single from the album and its opening track. It’s about finding your confidence and self-belief and uplifting your loved ones to do the same. It also introduces the band’s revamped sound, which places an emphasis on low-end and atmospheric electronics; there’s a trip-hop feel throughout the album, which is decidedly different from the poppier place we left them in on its predecessor, ‘Heads Up’.
The album is excitingly dynamic as it cycles through its varied but unified vibes – whether that’s the uptempo, dancey ‘Hips’; the spacey, seductive ‘Like Sweetness’; or the moody ballad ‘Trouble’. There’s a maturity to the lyrical content here, which by no means undercuts its playfulness. ‘Hard To Tell You’, for example, details the pain of a nobody’s-fault breakup, while ‘Melting’ sees its narrator ready to move on from bad habits and accept love. At the same time, though, there’s the light-hearted sexiness of ‘Stevie’ and the closing track ‘Send Nudes’, on they winkingly ask a lover to “send a couple nudes” and share a cup of noodles while they’re at it.
All of which feels like a tribute to what you can accomplish when creating with people you love – to feeling supported in exploring some of life’s most complex offerings, yet maintaining curiosity and a sense of fun. And, as ‘Radiate Like This’ shows us, that never goes out of style.
Release date: May 6
Record label: Heirlooms/Virgin Records