Instead of trying to recreate previous highs like "Harsh Realm," Widowspeak take the spooky allure of their debut album in a more traditional direction on Almanac. With a fuller, more polished sound courtesy of producer Kevin McMahon, Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas go beyond the Hope Sandoval and Mazzy Star influences of Widowspeak and instead draw inspiration from one of rock's original dark princesses, Stevie Nicks. There's a strong Fleetwood Mac influence throughout, whether it's the soft drama of "Dyed in the Wool," a song whose gauzy prettiness evokes Nicks' chiffon getups, or the steely guitar licks on "The Dark Age." The band embraces its classic rock leanings most winningly on "Ballad of the Golden Hour," a lament about the fleetingness of everything that finds Hamilton's whispers at their most urgent, a feeling echoed in the song's surprising, arena-size coda. Later, on "Sore Eyes," Hamilton sings "ashes to ashes to ashes," and while it's not entirely clear whether she dreads or accepts the end of things, she makes it sound entrancing. From its dreamy '70s-tinged album artwork on down, a smoky haze drifts over most of Almanac, particularly on "Thick as Thieves," which plays like a cross between an ancient sea shanty and West Coast hippie jazz. This misty quality serves most of the album well, particularly on "Storm King," which expands on the spare beauty of Widowspeak, and the nostalgic pop of "Spirit Is Willing." However, when Hamilton and Thomas venture into the mantra-rock of "Locusts" or the strutting "Devil Knows," it's hard not to want more bite from their sound. Still, Almanac proves that Widowspeak can embrace more traditional sounds without feeling stuffy, as well as make music that's much more eclectic than might have been expected.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares