Looming – ‘Nailbiter’ Review

Posted: by Henderson



Looming stunned me with their new album Nailbiter. After spinning their self-titled EP until I had memorized every word and interviewing the band back in February, I was heavily anticipating Looming’s debut LP on No Sleep Records, but even I was shocked by how consistently excellent this record is. It is certainly a contender for the year’s best debut album and will certainly be in my consideration for album of the year.

Looming is a somewhat mathy, somewhat punk rock, indie band from Illinois. They’re incredibly hard to describe because their sound is so unique. This different sound is led by the dark, brooding, and most of all interesting vocals by the lead singer Jessica Knight. You truly have to listen to her at least once, and I challenge you to name anything similar. I would say the vocals are a combination of Marissa Paternoster from Screaming Females and Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz but even that isn’t a direct match. Not only are her vocals unique, but they are versatile. Sometimes they are almost spoken, other times they smooth out into dark yet melodic singing. She can ratchet up the intensity, she can lure you into a calm, all within her own style. It really is one of the coolest things in music in 2015.

These wild vocals are supplemented by the rhythmic and varied instrumentals throughout the entire LP. In fact I would say that the best way to describe all of Nailbiter is rhythmic and varied. The complexity of the arrangement reminds me of Cursive and TTNG, both bands I   know Looming are a fan of themselves. Within each song, excellent drum work by Brandon Carnes provides a driving yet varied tempo and sporadic bursts of guitars (Jordan Fein and Mitch Baker) keep the listener guessing. The vocals chime in on the beat, keeping your foot tapping throughout the entirety of the album. Nearly every song builds to a conclusion. There are no stale moments let alone minutes.

While each song follows this same formula, I can’t emphasize enough the amount of variation within this album. A few tracks like ‘Brother’ and ‘Impermanence’ have dueling male and female vocals in a call and refrain pattern that is executed perfectly. Other songs interlace Jessica’s vocals over themselves creating an entrancing web. On ‘Linear Lines’ for instance this method draws the listener in for an explosive conclusion to the track. Some songs are sung others are barked. Looming take risks while not straying from their sound.

I haven’t even mentioned how well written the lyrics within this album are. Intense visual descriptions fill the listener’s mind, yet do not force any one interpretation leaving you to decide how these dark tunes apply to your own life and experience. Most of the tracks focus on flaws within yourself and others. Sometimes the singer reflection on her own weaknesses, for instance on ‘Output’ “You liked me more before you knew what I was worth, my heart has wounds my lungs won’t work, I’ve grown so cold a smile perfectly in place, I’m so damn tired, I’m so tired.”  But other times the lyrics speculate on the flaws of others without ever assuming full understanding, like on ‘Onward’, “Am I the cancer? That makes you grind your teeth at night, I been watching you do it for the last few years now. Afraid of your own mind, its natural instinct.” A line like “Am I the cancer” is a feeling most have felt, and it’s the sort of lyric that resonates and sticks with you way after the song has ended. This is a perfect example of the quality within Nailbiter. The depth to these lyrics is up there with the best albums of 2015 (Hop Along *cough*), but yet there are also memorable choruses on nearly every track that will certainly make these songs fun to see performed live.

If you can resist going back and repeating songs, this is certainly an album you can listen through all the way though. There are no weak spots. In fact my biggest complaint with this album is that I wanted more songs. 10 songs!?! I want 100 of these, but what is better than leaving fans wanting more. Looming is a band doing big things, and I think this is just the beginning. I could write about this album all day. Just go listen to it.