Pumarosa have been building up expectations for their debut album for years. They released the epic ‘Priestess’ in 2015, and since that moment, they have managed to outdo their selves with the following tracks: ‘Honey’ and ‘Cecil’ – surprisingly out of the record. I guess this background put significant pressure on a debut. It could mean a resounding failure if they cannot keep up, or an exuberant display of strength. Fortunately for them – and for us – ‘The Witch’ is one of the latter, a stunning album pretty close to perfection.
Their first full-length opens with the atmospheric ‘Dragonfly‘, a haunting sonic tale about one’s vulnerability once you take down your shell and let people in. It was the first tune taken from ‘The Witch’ and a clear statement of their ambitions. Followed by the 2016’s majestic cut ‘Honey’ that grows to a jaw-dropping outro, the first side closes with the title track. ‘The Witch’ lets Isabel Munoz-Newsome shine over a low-key arrangement. She has drawn comparisons to the likes of Savages’ Jenny Beth or Bjork, but in Isabel’s voice, there is something that instantly captivates you – and this only increases when you see it live.
“You teach me dependency,
I’m coming back for more”
The second side could summarize the richness and grandeur of the album. It goes from the anthemic danceable ‘Priestess’ to the slow-burn piano-lead ‘Lions’ Den’. They sound utterly different, a drastic change musically and lyrically, exploring diverse realms, but it doesn’t feel odd. It does sound cohesive, as the album does.
‘My Gruesome Loving Friend’, ‘Red’ and ‘Barefoot’ comprise the best side of the album. The first track is a gem, a feel-good tune over a truly enjoyable base, a clear must-listen. The outro of ‘Red’ is simply mind-blowing. It slowly builds up through this funky piece until it completely embraces you. It sounds industrial and experimental and it could have been a cut on its own. It is one of their highlights live, and they managed to make it a highlight in the record as well. ‘Barefoot’ – my very favourite – is just ace. Folky guitar backing up Isabel’s vocals, just mesmerizing. It grows towards the most unexpected way, turning it into a completely pleasant surprise.
“I’m walking barefoot now,
On the edge of a knife”
‘Hollywood’ and ‘Snake’ close the album. The comparison to Radiohead seems obvious when the former starts. Several influences can be identified during the album, but the band manages to make them sound their own. The fact that Pumarosa are something completely different to anything out there was already clear, as clear as they found their characteristic and recognizable sound by the time their second single was out – when tons of bands struggle to do during years.
‘The Witch’ will not let down any fan of the band. It is one of the best debut albums I’ve listened to in a very long time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this masterpiece ended up in several albums-of-the-year lists. It will definitely be in mine.
Fiction Records | 2017
Tracklist & Stream