There are obvious reasons to love SXSW, but the massive music festival has some subtler wrinkles to admire, as well. Sure, it’s great for those with golden tickets that Brighton indie pop outfit Fear of Men are making their first live stops in the U.S.; as if that pot needed sweetening, gaining momentum for those shows means American fans get to snap up a new release of their previously UK-only singles. Fear of Men get added exposure, and fans get a snazzy physical encapsulation of the singles they’ve loved streaming. Early Fragments represents the four-piece’s history, moving backwards from their most recent dreamy haze to their first art school experiments.
Though pop tunes might not have been on the curriculum, art school seems to have had an important influence on their music. Beyond the fine art on the cover and the marbled coloring of the vinyl, Jessica Weiss and Co. understand the power of messing with expectations. Tracks like “Doldrums” float by like cotton candy clouds, but peering through the haze can result in some pretty melancholy moments.”We’re born to be dust from the start,” Weiss coos, Daniel Falvey’s guitar flickering above the taut rhythm section.
The reverse-chronological structuring reveals that Fear of Men had their identity formed pretty early in the game. Closer/first single “Spirit House” is pretty on the nose lyrically, discussing spirits and dreams in the Echo and the Bunnymen moonlight. “Green Sea” makes pain seem pleasant, losing itself in a wash of acoustic guitar and bass thrum. Weiss sounds downright angelic singing “I feed on your insides / I will digest you while you sleep” on latest single “Mosaic”, and “Your Side” features some surfy guitar.
The evolution into these newer tracks lies in new genre flourishes and just how much darkness they can blend into the shimmering pop. That said, the contents of Early Fragments display exactly what the cover promises: a beautiful set of songs that don’t quite fit together, more variations on a theme than a unified album. Considering the growing confidence, Fear of Men should be able to follow that up with a strong LP quite readily.
Essential Tracks: “Doldrums”, “Mosaic”