Madam West – Warm Bodies
Brooklyn, New York’s Madam West has released a six song EP entitled Warm Bodies that makes the young group’s claim to being one of the more talented and fully fleshed out acts to emerge from the aforementioned music scene in quite some time. They’ve earned fulsome praise from a number of quarters, including Tiny Mix Tapes and IMPOSE, and their work has fueled word of mouth enough they’ve secured some important festival spots as a live act and opened for former Kendrick Lamar collaborator Anna Wise in recent memory. The band, as well, commenced their first national tour in spring 2017 and, in some ways, one can hear Warm Bodies as a natural outgrowth of all that activity. This is a band that clearly found themselves in the last 12-18 months and is flush with the white hot transformative powers of inspiration. They take six songs about common human struggles and imbue them with great musical energy alongside the spark of pure poetry.
Sophie Chernin is responsible for much of that poetry and her gifts are appreciable from the first. Much of that quality in the band’s music and words can be lain at the feet of her vocal delivery and how she dramatizes even the most seemingly innocuous statement into a line fraught with possible implications. This is clear even in the EP’s first track “Strongest Son” where Chernin sings “close” to the guitar and synths/keyboards with a noticeably powerful result. It’s likely the most rock-orientated number on Warm Bodies, but far removed from the standard assortment of poses we associate with the genre. The synths give it a distinctly different quality, for sure, but the rhythms do as well and the juxtaposition of direct yet beguiling melody against this framework is particularly notable. The title song achieves many of the same results without ever falling into any comfortable niche. Longtime music devotees will appreciate Madam West for many reasons, but a crucial one they will invariably cite is that the band has a presence manifesting itself very differently from what similar groups offer.
“Erstwhile Manatee” marks a turning point of sorts for the EP as the group moves the guitar into a more supporting role than we’ve experienced with the first two tracks. This doesn’t mean that it becomes unimportant to the songwriting’s overall tapestry but, instead, plays much more in lockstep with the drumming and synth lines rather than operating with the same independence we heard in “Strongest Son” and “Warm Bodies”. Another highlight on the EP is the later song “L” which lyrically and thoughtfully explores some of the EP’s key themes in an arrangement that’s deceptively relaxed. Madam West ends Warm Bodies with its longest song, “Wise Blood” and never sounds like they are stretching too far to make an appropriately climatic statement. The band’s EP shows a clear evolution from their first album and undoubtedly signals that this talented group has found their sound, staked out their territory, and is ready to consolidate those gains. Warm Bodies is a statement of purpose that makes a deep impact in the here and now while showing that, as good as it is, the band’s best is still to come.