Release Date: Apr 7, 2009
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Pop
Equal parts mellow, breezy, and cozy, It Hugs Back's Inside Your Guitar makes listeners feel like they very well could be tucked inside the band's instruments -- or in bed for a nice nap or some daydreaming. Though their debut album is considerably more polished and focused-sounding than their EPs, the uniquely winsome quality of It Hugs Back's music remains, with buzzing keyboards and fuzzy guitars (and occasionally, fuzzy keyboards and buzzing guitars). Matthew Simms' vocals barely rise above a whisper on these songs, whether they're slow-building epics like album opener "Q" or "Work Day"'s strummy pop.
Before experiencing Inside Your Guitar, the debut album from the cuddly-named UK dream pop band It Hugs Back, you should be prepared. First, check to make sure there aren’t any sharp objects nearby. Not necessarily because Inside Your Guitar is depressing, but because it’s an album whose beautiful yet fragile sounds are incredibly breakable and an album that will immediately cause you to fall into either a) the deepest, helpless, zombie-like slumber you’ve experienced in years, or b) a reclined state of bliss.
Music labels rarely have a “sound” these days, what with most labels taking on any band they think they can promote effectively. 4AD, while housing a diverse group of artists, still has a type: If you make hazy shoegaze that references basically every noisy pop group from the late '80s, odds are you’ll land on their label. Kent, England’s It Hugs Back are the latest band to sound like the 4AD shoegaze roster ground up into a inoffensive patty with their mostly passable debut album, Inside Your Guitar.
Maidstone, Kent has been underrepresented in pop history. But the debut from these local boys may not be the album to put it on the map. They've been talked up as successors to My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, thanks to their predilection for building layer upon layer of guitars and organ into a woolly filter through which lacy tunes are sometimes visible - but It Hugs Back are a sleepier version, at best.
At first blush, It Hugs Back seems like an awful name for a band, but upon hearing their debut album, it makes some sense. The group specialize in warm, gentle songs that return a listener's affection, but do not go much further-- their music is like a reassuring embrace, but it never feels like an equivalent to kissing, or anything remotely sexual. Cuddling is out of the question too, as the record's overwhelmingly melancholy tone suggests consolation rather than romantic bliss.
It Hugs Back is a quartet from England that boasts it was influenced by the songwriting of Wilco, the sound layers of My Bloody Valentine, the pop charm of The Lemonheads and the textures of Sonic Youth. But after listening closely many times to Inside Your Guitar, you’re more likely to hear the hypnotically, droning fuzz-rock of Yo La Tengo, the slow-burning shoegaze of American Analog Set and the melancholic dream-pop of Earlimart. And if all that name-calling doesn’t get you interested, well, it should, because they’re all valid comparisons.