Widowspeak first made a name for themselves with their EPs, and Swamps shows they can still deliver an enticing handful of songs. Here, Molly Hamilton, Michael Stasiak, and Robert Earl Thomas balance the more traditional songwriting they embraced on Almanac with a lighter touch in the studio. As good as that album was, it sometimes seemed a little weighed down by how much structure and slickness it had compared to their earlier work. Swamps feels more effortless, harking back to the casual, almost accidental charisma that was a big part of their original appeal. These songs were recorded in New York, but they drift and drawl so much that they conjure images of Spanish moss trailing in the breeze (fittingly, the EP features photos of a model swamp Hamilton made). Breathy backing vocals and percussion that sounds like crickets and rain eases listeners into a sampler of everything Widowspeak does well: "Calico" returns to Almanac's Fleetwood Mac obsession, this time channeling "The Chain" in its witchiness. This vibe is echoed later on "Smoke and Mirrors," where Hamilton sings about "burning sage." "Brass Bed" delivers more of the sweet yet slightly creepy pop the band keeps getting better at: pianos sparkle as Hamilton sighs "Baby, can we play dead/Laying in our brass bed?" Meanwhile, "True Believer"'s acoustic dream pop makes the most of the group's casual sensuality: cooed backing vocals and slide guitar swoon over each other, and the way Hamilton's voice reaches upward as she asks "could you be my real thing?" is equally alluring and poignant. Retreating from the rest of the world is a recurring theme on Swamps, and these songs cast a haunting, if brief, spell that lets listeners do just that. Described by Widowspeak as a bridge between their previous output and their plans for the future, in its own quiet way this EP makes anticipating what's to come all the more exciting. Track for track, Swamps just might be Widowspeak's most consistent work yet.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares