There’s an art to making elegies and sorrow-ridden songs appealing. Jeff Tweedy and Elliott Smith both come to mind as musicians who’ve planted seeds of sadness that take root, grow and express themselves with an undying creativity, texture and tone. Take Wilco’s “Shot In the Arm,” a tune that blissfully strands the listener amidst major keys, torrents of piano notes and cheery guitar work — all while Tweedy gives gravelly utterance to depression and drug addiction in a standalone show most listeners might miss offhand.
Brooklyn folk-rock trio Widowspeak sounds nothing like Wilco — there’s perhaps a Western or Americana strain here or there, but overall, a different bag. But Widowspeak strings together songs of wistful listlessness with lulling guitar riffs and the angelic intonations of vocalist Molly Hamilton. Soaked in the pixilated nostalgia of the ‘90s, the band incites flashbacks of Reebok high-tops, fluffy perms and the heyday of Walmart consumerism. But there’s more. Widowspeak embraces the lo-fi fuzz of daydream culture found in outfits like Woods, Real Estate, Ducktails, the post-punk of Vivian Girls and Grass Widow, all with a healthy dollop of Washington grunge (Hamilton and drummer Michael Stasiak originally hail from Tacoma).
Widowspeak’s sound retains the cold, gray bite of Cascadia in the form of garage reverb and Hamilton’s forlorn vocals. But it’s also a pastel-layered, Western-beach grunge tight and compact enough to fit songs under three minutes, yet expansive enough to let lead guitarist Robert Earl Thomas tastefully pick and solo himself a center role. With material ranging from laments to songs like “In the Pines” and “Fir Coat,” Widowspeak might be based in Brooklyn’s urban jungle, but its inspiration seems to come from more bohemian, Northwestern alcoves.
Widowspeak plays 8:30 pm Sunday, June 24, at Sam Bond’s; $1-$5.