Release Date: Apr 22, 2014
Record label: Kanine Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Experimental Rock
“As they neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand. The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously. Gradually the dark bar on the horizon became clear as if the sediment in an old wine-bottle had sunk and left the glass green.” However mercurial it may otherwise be, for Fear of Men, the sea is always green.
When British indie pop unit Fear of Men collected the best moments from their small-run cassette and 7" releases on 2013's Early Fragments, they offered a wider audience a messy but incredibly compelling look into their still incubating world of dark themes and spellbinding melodies. Formed by a couple of art-school kids, the young group entwined the sound of dreamy-eyed lesser-known shoegaze acts like Curve and Lush with the broken optimism and beleaguered pop genius of the Smiths, all supporting vocalist/lyricist Jessica Weiss' jarringly direct lyrics of existential angst and emotional bankruptcy. While the lyrics veered quickly toward bleakness, the band's way with hooks and jangly guitar parts covered that dread with a sheen of sugar and resulted in one of the stronger collections of early singles in the indie canon.
“You will never leave me / As long as I inter you with my bones” – a romantic sentiment? Or a vision of hell? The song, “Waterfall”, is, like many of Fear of Men’s songs, rumination on the push and pull, the power dynamic, of a relationship between two humans. “Our lives contracted”, lead vocalist Jessica Weiss sings, perhaps playing on both definitions of the word “contract”. The music plays well with this mix of comfort and discomfort; the instruments play both sweetly and ominously; her singing rings with fear, anxiety and tenderness all at once.
Fear of Men's proper debut comes on the heels of last year's singles collection, Early Fragments. Judging by Loom's militant drum loops, lusciously layered vocals and rippling, backward guitar textures, the gloom pop quartet has been taking notes on Loveless' obscure passages..
Brighton's Fear of Men have released a number of singles in their four years — handily gathered for last year's Early Fragments comp — but they've finally managed to get that debut album out. Originally born as an art project for singer/songwriter Jess Weiss, Fear of Men have flown below the dream/indie-pop radar, as Early Fragments was unjustly overlooked.Loom may not arrive with the same kind of hype as darling peers like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Camera Obscura, but it has every bit of the whimsy and allure as either of those bands. Weiss' lyrics are disarmingly existential and lovelorn thoughts that achieve remarkable gravity alongside the jangling guitars and surging rhythms.
This may be Fear of Men’s debut album but we’ve had fair warning of their subtle and mesmerising charms: formed in 2010 there was a steady flow of singles that led up to last year’s ‘Early Fragments’ EP, which brought together a beautiful collection of light and dark pop songs. And here, on ‘Loom’ – which features ‘Seer’ and ‘Green Sea’ from that release – those elements of light and dark are harmonised once again. Apparently this record was often recorded through the night and that makes a lot of sense: there’s a feeling of the curtains being drawn and tales revealed and that dream-like state in-between awake and sleep feeling to it.
While the pristine glass surfaces of Fear Of Men’s lilting guitar pop offer an illusion of tranquillity, beneath the beauty lie troubled depths. The group’s musical inspirations are clear enough, encompassing the amber glow of New Zealand’s The Chills (whose ‘Pink Frost’ Fear Of Men regularly cover live), the chiming indie pop of The Smiths and The Sundays and the ambient song drift of Grouper and Julianna Barwick. Themes of anxiety and eroticism recur throughout Jessica Weiss’ lyrics, creating a disorientating dreamscape suffused with oceanic imagery, cresting with previous single ‘Green Sea’ and the ambitious swell of ‘America’.
Fear of Men often get cited more for their coy art-school affectations than their musical efforts, which is moreso a presentational modality than anything else. Akin to the gloom-and-glamour of Dee Dee Penny’s excursion into French writers like Anaïs Nin and Arthur Rimbaud in her recent effort, Too True, the Brighton trio were deep-thinking students who, for some inexplicable reason, thought that starting a band would make a fitting art school project. Not to say that expressing intellectualism through simple-minded indie pop songs is currently bucking a trend, but Fear of Men have surely exceeded at interjecting their art into a commercial concept - from the Hellenistic sculptures that adorn their album covers to recreating works by Marina Abramovic in the promotional cut for the song Luna, it’s safe to say they’ve graduated with high distinction.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's a song that's been sung a million times before, the one about love; and you could be mistaken for thinking that a million times is enough. Yet love is an irrational beast that fights with no sense of mercy and it's encouraging once in a while to know that someone else is on your side. Loom is a tapestry of sounds and emotions to hold you when you're lost and don't know where to turn: "I can help you when you're down and out" they sing on 'Seer'.
At the intersection of light and dark, dreams and waking, art and music, there lies Fear of Men. This might sound overly dramatic (cue chipmunk), but it’s some serious stuff (seriously). The U.K.-based quartet is confusing, even contradictory at times. How could something so floaty be so dour? How could a voice so ethereally gorgeous express such existential sentiments? The key seems to be in art and riding the line between sweetness and despair; there’s a duality here, and it’s present throughout Fear of Men’s debut album, Loom.
Almost every song on Loom, Fear of Men’s full-length debut, includes a reference to water. The narrator in these songs risks being consumed, overwhelmed, sunk like a stone, or washed away completely. The drowned romanticism of the band’s lyrics (“I tried my best to destroy you but the waves/ Keep overflowing me/ Washing me out ‘till I’m empty”) is reflected in their music as well—a kind of delicate, twilight indie pop swirl that belies the heady darkness that seems to always be simmering just underneath.
“My first vision of earth was water veiled. I am of the race of men and women who see all things through this curtain of sea, and my eyes are the color of water.” – Anais Nin Fear Of Men front woman Jessica Weiss makes no bones of her scholarly influences or art school background, counting among her influences Sigmund Freud, Sylvia Plath and, yes, Anais Nin. While Weiss has indicated that Fear of Men began as an art school project involving her study of Nin’s work – indeed, one of Nin’s most profound works obliquely speaks to an incestuous relationship with her father – I don’t offer the above quote as yet another jumping off point to discuss Weiss and her band’s influences.
We are not in a pop crisis. There is no shortage of woozy, babbling-brook-ish, touch-of-R&B pop tunes. It’s nearly impossible to track exactly where the sound started from, but it’s been recycled and rewarped ad nauseum, with footing in late ’80s twee acts like Talulah Gosh, Heavenly and Tiger Trap; later evolving under the noses of bands like Camera Obscura, Phantogram and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.
Future, Honest Future’s mercilessly AutoTuned voice is one of mainstream rap’s most omnipresent. The guy’s built a pop empire by cannily anticipating and then mining the fertile nexus of nearly every on-trend sound enjoying its fifteen minutes on urban radio. The question Future loves to pose is: Why listen to marquee names (think Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, the Weeknd, or Drake) when you can listen to another marquee name that sounds like all those artists, all at once, without scanning as excessively derivative? On Honest, his latest full-length, Future sells a fashionably high-gloss take on everything from bombastic braggadocio to moody R&B emoting, playing a broad field when a line like Drake’s “Always money on my mind” (from “Never Satisfied”) can ring as stone-cold tough one minute and self-pityingly harrowing the next.
Consisting of art school-educated romantics, U.K. dream-pop trio Fear Of Men formed in 2011 after guitarist Daniel Falvey heard singer Jessica Weiss’ ambient short film soundtracks at an exhibit. Marrying their headier interests in avant-garde film and European literature with their delicate, moody indie pop, the band released 2013’s Early Fragments, a loose, true-to-its-name collection of singles showcasing a budding proclivity for woozy and wistful pop hooks.