Leave it to a Bay Area band, claiming not to be major stoners, to name their outfit after a weed strain.
Sour Widows consists of Maia Sinaiko, Susanna Thomson, and Max Edelman: Two began their journey as a band in 2017, but all three have childhood connections. Maia and Susanna started out as a duo—they both played guitar, wrote lyrics, and sang. After their debut performance at 924 Gilman in Berkeley, they joined forces with drummer Max Edelman, which modified the duo into a zigzagging slowcore trio of illuminated voices and amped-up guitar squall.
The kind of ensemble that Star Cleaners, the old punk venue on 16th Street in the Mission, would book to play between art-rock and proto-punk bands on a Friday night. (Benders picked up that torch.) Anyway, before long they were touring and sharing bills with acts as diverse as Pile, Sen Morimoto, Tasha, and members of Warpaint.
After the release of their self-titled EP in February of 2020, the plan was to continue touring and start work on a full-length album. Welp, the pandemic monkey-wrenched an entire planet. Sour Widows, left with a plethora of “shelter in place” time on their hands, opted to work from home and remotely record new material themselves rather than stop momentum indefinitely waiting to safely get into a studio.
Good for them. Great for us. Susanna and Maia worked while quarantining together and struck indie gold.
Previous releases displayed the trio’s ability to move as a unit on an upward curve; Intensity starting on a 2 and ending on a 9, slowly gaining from one audio extreme to another. A concept some veteran contemporaries in the indie-alternative audioverse still don’t quite get.
The “Crossing Over” EP, with its beautifully broken slowcore heart, exposed and reeling, takes the listener through sensitive, consuming vignettes. Setbacks and conquering moments are limned by measured vocals and the mindhive-intricate guitar teamwork.
The seven-minute title track “Crossing Over” features text centered around a long haul liaison. Someone is having an existential plight…. But the sonic world-building extends the crisis into frequencies, allowing us to feel, not judge, the introvert experience.
Humanity all over has been going through some type of panic in this COVID mess. But this band makes the apparent seem beguiling, not petty.
The gloomy third song “Bathroom Stall” shares the experience of losing a friend and partner to addiction—the interplay of guitar and vocals performs the task delicately. Facilitating an environment of grief, with pockets of serenity and grace. The band really do understand when to lay out and turn down. It’s a hulking, foreboading arrangement never played for cheap tears.
But it’s the opener “Look The Other Way” that remains unshakeable. It’s a five-minute forge, uphill, one foot planted in alluring shoegazer land and the other stutter treading into full rock balladry. Once we get there.
The final minute or so finds Maia Sinaiko touching off the number with a soulful guitar solo that weaves us past bleak libretto arrangements. Opting to resolve with backbreaking arches and bluesy riffs, giving up that rare moment to finally exhale.