“Island,” a highlight from Fear Of Men‘s new album Fall Forever, opens with a string of warped, looping sighs before fanning out into a string of swoonily propulsive pop choruses. At times, the effect is reminiscent of the early-’90s Britpop band The Sundays, albeit with a darker, more subtly discordant underbelly. “Island” is, after all, a song about independence and solitude — “Been dreaming of no one for so long,” Jessica Weiss sings at one point — but the overall sound is distinctly inviting.
That dichotomy — welcoming vs. distancing — runs throughout Fall Forever, the English band’s second album and follow-up to 2014’s terrific Loom. Typically, the distancing manifests itself in Weiss’ ambivalent words, while the arrangements that surround her billow and bloom. A song like “Island” ultimately feels both personal and universal, as it captures the way getting older pushes you to carve out your own identity even as internal and external forces push you toward others.
Elsewhere on Fall Forever, darkness and light fuse to form multifaceted gems like “Trauma,” a buzzing nugget of gloomy accusation that nevertheless shimmers with a strange kind of buoyancy. Like the rest of this brisk, moody collection, it pulls the listener in several directions at once, only to land on a sweet spot every time.