From the name of the band to the smooth, mellow guitar sounds that seem to intertwine between listlessly sung words, it’s clear that Fear of Men deal mostly with the darker, lonelier side of the world, but with enough spark to be known exclusively as an alt-pop band. At first listen their debut album Loom may seem like a fantastical journey through ideas like nature and love and the severity of life, yet underneath it all, it’s apparent that these sweetly sung words are actually through clenched teeth. This actually plays out quite well for the band as a whole, giving them a rare grunge, yet transcendental effect that sounds both unsettling and gorgeous. Opener “Alta” holds true to the album’s title – it looms and stalks slowly, with Jessica Weiss’s vocals hovering, only to be swallowed up with the guitars that open track “Waterfall.” The lethargic vocals and the drone of synth and keys turn this into quite a dark track, even though the lyrics may say otherwise. “Green Sea” is a lovely ballad, and Weiss’s vocals are so crisp and smooth it’s as if you’re being plunged into those glossy green waters themselves. It’s a contender to “Descent” as the best track of the album, and serves as it’s cousin in a way. “Green Sea” is as whimsical as it gets with Fear of Men, while “Descent” explores the more dismal sides of that same emotion. It seems to relate more to the experience of leaving someone who is truly your other half for purely personal reasons. The Brighton band is skilled at taking these negative feelings and putting them up against instrumentals reminiscent of the Smiths and other bands like them. It’s melodic and lovely, but then make you think and take a closer listen (see “Tephra”). It’s here that over thinking is actually a good thing, something that shouldn’t really occur in music. “Luna” sounds strong and forceful, with a delicate edge that reminds me a little of Snakadaktal or even bits and pieces of New Order, Depeche Mode, and Erasure. It’s bizarre, I know, but there’s something about it and the band themselves that seem lost in time. The only complaints I would have for the album itself would be the tendency of the subject matter to repeat itself along with some of the instrumentals, and the parts that can be a bit dry, which I’m sure just comes with the frivolity and naivety of a debut album. It’s clear the band is still working on those feelings, and the attempt makes up for the lack in a way. “Inside” balances out the dainty instrumentals with heavier ones, and joins “Descent” in that idea. Closer “Atla,” ironically, serves as the mirror image of “Alta,” and ends the album on a slow, soft, albeit heavy tone.
Overall, Loom is well constructed, and the connection to water and nature is apparent and effective, leaving one to contemplate how those physical things relate to the more metaphysical, whether that be love or some other force entirely.