The album cover for Warrior, the third full-length by Brooklyn-based band Air Waves, features a ominous, androgynous figure standing with a bicycle, wearing a gas mask adorned with a daisy. The remarkable image was taken on April 22nd, 1970 at the inaugural Earth Day celebration in New York City by Nicole Schneit’s dad, Martin Schneit. Forty-seven years later, artist Em Rooney hand-painted Schneit’s original black & white photo, resulting in an image that radiates with Warrior’s indefatigable spirit, strength, and love.
Like many queer women, Nicole Schneit is a warrior by necessity, fighting for basic rights, dignity, and acceptance. Such determination in the face of hardship and injustice runs in Schneit’s family; her new album was inspired in part by her mom who was diagnosed with fallopian cancer last year. As she explains, “The doctor told her she had a fifteen to twenty percent chance, and her response was ‘I’m going to get this mother fucker.’ So the title Warrior and the song are about her. After chemotherapy, surgery, and then more chemotherapy, all the cancer in her body has left and she's currently in remission. I feel like most of the people in my life, including myself, are warriors and have overcome obstacles that seemed impossible to defeat.”
The dignified fighter archetype referenced in the album’s title is explored on each of Warrior’s eleven pieces of bittersweet, empowering indie pop. According to Schneit the song “Gay Bets”, written after the 2016 election is “about being gay and being proud and open. I was thinking about hate crimes spiking and the current state of the world. My friend Jennifer Moore, who sings on the track, was my partner a long time ago, so I felt like I was writing a fuck you to Trump, for trying to take away queer rights, women's rights, people's rights.” The song “Tangerine” was inspired by the film of the same name in which two trans women try to make ends meet as prostitutes. This movie, a dark docu-comedy shot in the contrastingly sunny setting of L.A., reflects Schneit’s battle between identity and society via Brooklyn pop rock that swings between the pastel-tinged and the downright melancholic.
On the album’s gorgeous closer “Blue Fire,” (inspired by the Adrienne Rich poem “The Will to Change”) Schneit equates her post-presidential-election anxiety to a flame that grows and recedes, as she pleads for herself and listeners to remain calm. Like its namesake, the track burns slowly and brightly into one of the most glowing points on the record, leaving the listener smiling with thoughtful hope. Warrior’s highlights, and all of the unmissable, satisfying pieces that tie them together show Schneit’s perseverance and resilience through crumbling relationships, personal adversity, and the current political climate, all leading to her most powerful collection of songs to date. Understated, subtly sophisticated, and equally empowering and comforting, Warrior launches Air Waves above the apolitical complacency of too many of the group's contemporaries. Schneit proudly declares her mission statement: “I want these songs to be heard by people in my queer community, but also by anyone that wants to feels strong, powerful, and included.”
…glittery guitar work, sweet spot-hitting harmonies…
…rollicking, down-home folk-rock…
…big jangly, strummy, sunshiney, melancholic warm, swirling pretty much perfect pop music.
…infectiously breezy and moving folk-pop melodies…
...her smoky, melancholic voice bears similarities to the likes of Chan Marshall or Feist.
There are constantly relatable nostalgias in those guitar and vocal harmonies.
…some of the loveliest melodies anywhere.