Those are some funky pajamas. Is that really what you wear to bed? Sorry, we were just watching you sleep, and we couldn’t help but notice you’re not listening to anything in particular. Might we recommend something perfect for you?
We’re talking about Loom by Fear of Men!
What is chamber pop? It’s more commonly called baroque pop and its eternal kings forever and ever are Belle & Sebastian. They’re great to fall asleep to in your ugly pajamas, too, but sometimes they don’t know when to stop feigning ironic disinterest. Listing Ship, Widowspeak, God Help the Girl, the list of bands that make quality chamber pop goes on and on, but few master the balance between the crisp reality of the waking world and the airy quality of dreams.
That’s what Fear of Men gets so right, and how they get it so right relies on a marriage of talent that recalls that most legendary of British mood generators, The Smiths. The same way perfectly named Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr created broad sonic architectures that contrasted against Morrissey’s viciously precise lyrics, Fear of Men guitarist Daniel Falvey creates optimistic, surprisingly uptempo riffs that contrast with Jessica Weiss’s dour, downtempo lyrics.
The result is a weird synergy that invokes the beautiful dissonance in dreams.
You can’t easily select a single song from Loom to stand above the others – it all runs together so perfectly as one piece.
“Waterfall” (at the very top of this article) is a terrific example, however – it jumps straight in at full speed, Falvey’s guitar blazing ahead while Weiss keeps pace at a despondent meander. Michael Miles on drums and Becky Wilkie on bass fill out the sound as the music builds into a final sonic realization that isn’t a typical fadeaway, but a relaxing crescendo. See? Relaxing crescendo. That doesn’t even exist!
“America” starts off as straightforward baroque pop, but it similarly builds across four-and-a-half minutes into something fuller. And yet, the more instrumentation adds in, the lighter the entire construction becomes.
“Atla” is a beautifully soft two minutes that embraces a wistful paradigm: “If you never leave me, I’ll never understand you. Cause I’ll never know what I could have been without you.”
Relaxing crescendos, orchestrations that lighten as they triple in size, and a final paradox describing in one sentence the difficulty of love. All impossibilities in reality, but Fear of Men exists in a dream. Somehow, they’ve found their way across to us. Impossible. Just like how ugly your pajamas are.
– Cleopatra Parnell & Gabriel Valdez
This article is part of our series on the top 35 albums of 2014. Here’s the list as we unveil it.