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. With Loom, the group’s proper full-length debut, the band follows through on that initial promise, striking a smart balance between effortless pop and over-thought melancholia.
Armed with sleeker production (courtesy of Falvey) and improved songcraft, Loom is an assured, self-contained album focused on Weiss coming into her own. Understated but not one-note, the frontwoman’s swooning alto reaches Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star levels of ethereality. Her voice lightly floats during highlights “Green Sea” and “Tephra,” displaying subtle pangs of sadness as she lingers on syllables over Falvey’s peppy, C86-indebted guitars. When she’s backed only by a faint organ or acoustic guitar, like on “Vitrine,” Weiss’ coos hauntingly fill the empty spaces on lines like, “Shadows are swallowing me / And I still don’t know what to do.” Weiss’ bleak observations on romance and loneliness separate Fear Of Men from the more optimistic, somewhat twee acts populating the genre.
Excepting the rare but welcome glimpse of a heightened tempo or an instrumental freakout, Loom, at times, occupies much of the same hazy midtempo headspace. Crashing snare-drum-blasts and glistening reverb-washed guitars on “Inside” and “Waterfall” suggest a promising, arena-filling direction; other tracks, like “America,” tread the same meandering alt-rock of their previous singles. Though Loom can occasionally feel familiar, lacking in grand ambitions, its still-confident songs are meticulously crafted and packed with moments of shimmering pop splendor.