Review Summary: "If you want to know a bitter truth, I have only lied to you."
Pompeii are of the notion that an album needs to be an album
, as they have stated themselves in their October, 2014 interview with The Seventh Hex
: ”Making albums and appreciating them as one complete thought from start to finish remains an important virtue to the band,” lead songwriter Dean Stratford told the interviewer. The collective whole of each of their releases needs to have a general theme and work together as one unit when played front to back, more or less. Given the immediacy of the internet and this generation’s weak attention spans – speaking widely – the vast majority of music listeners miss out on the impact of experiencing a full album that artists such as Pompeii craft. It’s all too common that these individuals hop from single to single, looking for a basic catchy hook fix, and miss out on a plethora of quality material in the process: i.e. the mainstream.
Ironically 2014’s Loom
is the one album in Pompeii’s discography that is concrete proof of Stratford’s claim regarding their music: This is
an album, as he defined it. Loom
came after a five-year hiatus for the band where they sat back after 2008’s more basic Nothing Happens For A Reason
and really took their time to write something powerful and moving. They lost their cellist Caitlin Bailey within the time between releases and instead began to work with the Tosca String Quartet to fill in the gap where they felt they needed strings in their alternative-indie pallet. Band-friend Christopher Cox wrote the string arrangements, based on what the band gave him for within the songs themselves, and then the quartet filled in the rest.
The atmosphere Loom
creates is what sets it apart and above Pompeii’s prior albums. The opening title-track for Loom
only states one lyrical motif over and over: “For one second life, for once in your life, in one single lifetime.” No object to the prepositional phrase is ever revealed by the singer. Instead the piano, strings, and drum build-up that encompasses and caresses Stratford’s voice seem to suggest a personal subject in the way the sound makes you feel. The atmosphere that comes forth from the opener is one of heartbreak and nostalgia, and this is the over-arching theme that Pompeii have embedded into the whole of Loom
. Similar works from There Will Be Fireworks’ The Dark, Dark Bright
and Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism
are immediate draw points for comparison strictly because of the mood Loom
Songs don’t follow a set verse-chorus structure throughout their lengths, so often a song’s main hook is only heard once. Single “Blueprint” is a great example of this. Brisk reverb-y guitars follow Stratford through a verse that starts to build on Rob Davidson’s rolling drumbeat and the quartet’s cycling string arrangement. Stratfords kicks up the intensity in his voice, declaring, “If you want to know a bitter truth, I have only lied to you. It doesn’t matter,” which is the climax and the chorus of the song and stands as one of Loom
’s defining moments. It’s catchy, and while at first you may wish that the band had repeated the moment several times throughout “Blueprint’”s length, the fact that it only occurs once makes its impact much more stronger in context of both the song and the whole of Loom
Stratford stated in the same interview with The Seventh Hex
that he had been listening to a lot of shoegaze music before recording Loom
, and that coupled with the analog synth work of guitarist Erik Johnson give Loom
a very reverb-drenched and delayed sound that is quite hypnotic and soothing. “Frozen Revise” follows the earnest longing of “Frozen Planet” with deep shoegaze keys that jangle and hang off Stratford’s heartbroken words. The effect is lulling, if sad sounding as well. Closer “Drift” hinges on Johnson’s guitar delay pedal for a more shoegaze-like sound while Stratford ends the album on a reflective note that finds the singer in a regretful, nostalgic mood: “You know, I am thinking of tomorrow. I am trying to forget. It’s nothing that I am not used to.”
This sullen ending comes after Loom
’s best and longest song, the six-minute “Sleeper”. Shoegaze synths return and paint a vivid if bleak wasteland that finds Stratford haunted as he runs into an ex-lover during the song’s string-laced, epic climax: “You stop with a stare. I shifted my view. Turning my ears from your words, but I already knew. I already knew,” Stratford croons, repeating the line “I already knew,” over and over for dramatic effect. Here, similarly to Loom
’s title-track, the subject of what the singer knew is never revealed but is instead left up to the listener as it relates to him or her on a personal level. “Sleeper’”s effect gives evidence to why Loom
is so successful at being an album, as the band defined it, through and through. The overarching theme of heartbreak and nostalgia stay valid throughout, and each song aids the others around it, forming a definitive album path that few releases in the whole of the music world can honestly match. Loom
is not an experience to be overlooked and missed.