Album Review: The Witch (2017) by Pumarosa

Pumarosa is a band I’ve been watching for a while, waiting almost vulture-like for them to drop an album. The Witch delivers on what I hoped their debut would be; featuring long atmospheric tracks, like their incredible debut single ‘Priestess’, as well as showing the band experimenting further with the sound shown on their early singles and EP. Basically it’s a great album filled with great tracks.

‘Dragonfly’, the opener is a smooth yet almost anthemic track, building slowly around a great metaphor. It’s not my favourite song on the album, but it makes for a great introduction to Pumarosa’s sound – described by the band as ‘Industrial Spiritual’. It bounces between delicate and roaring, led by singer Isabel’s incredibly captivating voice. The slow build used on ‘Dragonfly’ is a template for many of the songs on The Witch, and that’s not really a bad thing. ‘Priestess’ is the best example of this. When a song that’s seven and a half minutes long feels like a lot, lot less, you know the band are doing something right. Building from a humming synth and a repeated bass note, the track grows into one of the most danceable – and chantable – songs I’ve heard in a long time. It’s masterfully suspenseful, building up the audience’s anticipation before paying off tremendously.

While ‘Priestess’ is easily the album’s centrepiece, there are some other great long songs on here as well. The title track has a similar spiritual, almost tribal vibe, with Isabel singing of her ‘monkey hands’ and ‘building a fire’. The lyrics, I think, hold the song back slightly – being generally quite weak – but Isabel’s delivery of them helps it remain compelling. It definitely helps when a lead singer puts enthusiasm and personality into every word, and she does just that. ‘Lions’ Den’ is an even better track, putting even more emphasis on Isabel’s voice. The song starts off slow and stripped back, before exploding into a wall of sound around halfway through. However, it’s singer’s bitter, angry vocal delivery that makes the song so damn compelling.

Among these long, typically Pumarosa songs, there are also a few shorter tracks that show the band try on a few different styles. ‘Honey’ is a gloriously anthemic song about consumerism and global warming, chanting about how pointless so many of things we’re invested in are: ‘Events come and go / Like the waves of a fever’. Another favourite of mine on the album is ‘Barefoot’, which is perhaps the most stripped back the band gets, being built around a guitar and a punchy drum machine beat. Isabel’s Kate Bush-like delivery is again a large part of what makes this song so enjoyable, with her crooning vocals making it easy to connect with the story she’ll telling.

If there’s one noticeable dip on the album, it comes at the end. The last two tracks, ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Snake’, while not bad, are really just fine in my eyes. ‘Snake’ in particular is underwhelming as a closer, lacking the energy that so many of The Witch‘s best tracks do. And, unlike ‘Priestess’ or ‘Lions’ Den’, it feels unnecessarily long. It’s as though the band were aiming for a grand finish but missed the mark. Despite this blip, I highly recommend taking a look at this album. These last couple of songs aren’t bad – it’s more that the high quality of the rest of the album makes them look so. There’s a lot to love here.

Best Tracks: ‘Priestess’, ‘Lions’ Den’, ‘Barefoot’.

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