Warpaint: The Fool (Rough Trade)

After the Los Angeles-based, all-female rock quartet—which played in Tucson twice this year—released its impressive and acclaimed EP Exquisite Corpse, hopes were high for its first full-length recording.

The Fool is a rich and haunting record that fulfills the first disc's promise while exploring darker themes and funkier riffs. Sure, one can hear elements of other groups that are populated with or led by women, but why waste time on such comparisons when there's so much goodness here?

The first two tracks, "Set Your Arms Down" and "Warpaint," set a hypnotic tone. Drummer Stella Mozgawa and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg lay down tribal rhythms (morphing into a reggae hybrid on the bridge of the latter tune), while the dramatic tension increases subtly due to the twisting dynamics of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman's guitars. Closely chanted harmonies, led by Kokal, float over the mix like an angel whispering indecipherable come-ons in your ear. Kokal's vocals anchor the emotionally direct tunes, such as "Baby" and the "Majesty," in which she shows off both vulnerability and toughness.

Among the standout tracks is "Undertow," which combines jittering guitar figures and nouveau-girl-group vocals with shining shards of melody. "Bees" is made of harder stuff, flirting with the abstract dub noise practiced by some early '80s post-punk bands. Then there's "Composure," an ideal example of the way Warpaint's arrangements trade in a sense of spaciousness and spaciness while remaining focused.

This is one of those heavenly albums that sounds good the first time and gets better with repeated listens.