Review Summary: Looming (v.): Appearing as a shadowy form, especially one that is large or threatening.
When we're talking about the band Looming, let's start with the elephant in the room -- Jessica Knight's voice. For better or for worse, if you listen to this band for even one song, this is going to be the one thing that immediately jumps out at you. Some people like it, and love the band because of it. Others can't stand it. I've seen people for whom I've played Looming's music recoil immediately after just a few notes. And I understand why. There really isn't any other voice that I've heard to compare it to, with the possible exception of the cruelly reviled teen YouTube star Rebecca Black. Picture if you will an alternative pop band fronted by an extremely dramatic version of Popeye's Olive Oyl. That's what you're working with here.
I know that it sounds like I'm making fun of Knight, but I'm not. For whatever reason, I like
her voice. It's distinctive. It's passionate. And for the music that this band creates, for me, at least, it just works. But it's a voice that will divide potential fans, because it's definitely the most striking thing about Looming's music.
Now that we've established that, let's move on to the band's new album Seed
. This is the second full-length release by this Springfield, Illinois, quintet, following upon their 2015 LP, Nailbiter
. It's probably a more mature offering overall, although there's no single track on here that matches the power of the opening track (after the intro) from their debut, "Cotton Tongue". The pleasures on Seed
are more subtle, and maybe ultimately a little more memorable.
There's something dark about the music on Seed
, something a little grim and foreboding. This isn't in any way, shape or form a collection of happy little love songs. The music is basically medium-to-fast paced, and guitar-driven. Some of the songs are constructed of quickly-played acoustic strums, others from chunky electric guitar riffs. And the band makes interesting use of occasional male secondary vocals that are layered into the back of the mix, all of which serve to push that voice, that strange, breathless, wonderful voice of Knight's to the forefront.
My favorite track here is a slow, insidious number called "Smoke". While "Cotton Tongue" just reached out and grabbed you by the nutsack, this one slides inside of you like tentacles slithering their way into your orifices and working their way up your insides to collectively stab you in the brain. You won't even notice it until it's got its prickly little hooks stuck in your cerebellum. The song has something to do with metaphorically building and abandoning houses. I don't know what the hell it means. But it's kind of sinister, and I like it.
In fact, I can say that about a lot of the album. There are interesting little images, phrases and ideas sprinkled throughout the lyrics of the various tracks which enhance the listening experience -- phrases like "You watch your hands, I'll watch my mouth" in "Queen" (or maybe she's saying "wash", which is even more interesting); or "When you build a house of any kind/You touch all the walls, by and by" from "Smoke"; or the despairing, repeated cries of "For lack of a nail! For lack of a nail!" by the backing singer in Knight's tale of a failed relationship, "Lace". Much of "Tried and True" concerns Knight "begging" her friends to love her, while "Leaves" finds her looking to get back to a place with some nature in it -- "I'm running through the city, but I want to go home right now ... I'm feeling kind of shitty and I want to go home right now." And of course, all of these thoughts, pictures and concepts are coming at you through the vehicle of that voice
an album that I'll still be listening to twenty years from now? I don't know. Maybe. It's not a perfect album -- I have a feeling this band might still have their best work ahead of them. But there's something interesting about it that I just can't get out of head. Not without those pincers tearing up my brain meat, anyway. And even then ... I suspect I'll still be haunted ... by that voice!