Formed in the winter of 2012, Looms consists of Sharif Mekawy (vocals, keys, guitar), Harry Morris Jr. (guitar), A. Hammond Murray (bass) and Louis Cozza (drums). The group’s music is written around vocals and melodic instrumental arrangements with an evolving catalog that runs the gamut of song construction. Rock, pop, jazz, electronic, folk, and more are dissected and deconstructed down to their essential components, and then reimagined. Their sophomore LP, How It Has To Be, is out now on Little Dickman Records, and they’re currently touring the Northeast in support.
When I first heard this band, so many influential flags went up that I had to step back and play it again. Looms isn’t your typical Americana or punk band that you might find at the infinite number of watering holes at the Jersey Shore. The band takes their years of woodshedding experience and idolatry and mixes it all into one fantastic bunch of musical delight.
Sharif Mekawy’s vocal style is a complex combination of Jack White and Jeff Tweedy influences and the band is impossible to pigeonhole at all. I love the thought process behind their compositional directive and applaud their completely out of this world style. Chris Yaniak over at Little Dickman (you may notice that that name keeps coming up, well it’s because they send me new music instead of me chasing them down for space in this publication) sent me the album, and I thought I’d take a stab at reviewing the magic that has attracted Little Dickman and many other industry professionals that are working with the band either recording or out on the road.
The first song up is called “Cages,” and it kicks off with a jangly lilting attitude piloted by Mekawy’s raw and gritty vocals as clean guitars pick and warble (cool whammy bar bends) throughout the piece. Bass and drums solidify things as the vocals and guitars soar sky high and unfettered by any standard method to the madness. The chorus is addictive and memorable as Mekawy flies into the midst of the band’s melodic melee. I love the bridges here too. Sonic and melodic to the bone, Harry Morris Jr. lays some tasty six-string work over the top of the piece along with Mekawy. The outro pounds it home as guitars, bass and drums hit their staccato accents and end.
Mekawy’s organ talent start things off on “Tomorrow.” Drums, bass, and guitars kick in, and I love the jazzy, Steely Dan feel to this song. The overall vibe of the tune is progressive and freeform, although by the talented expertise of the band, I’m sure it’s anything but freeform. It reminds me of a summertime jaunt back to the ’70s. Mekawy’s keyboard proficiency is the dominant force here, and he doesn’t disappoint. The chorus is melancholy and joyous at the same time. The hopefulness that things will turn around and fall into place is the dominant vibe of the lyrical message here, and Mekawy delivers his message well. Harry’s extraordinary guitar work soothes the savage beast of rhythm partners A. Hammond Murray and Louis Cozza throughout the song. This a fantastic song and should do well for the band with its mix of eclectic jazzy tastiness and ambient presentation.
Moving around the disc a bit I came to a song called “Winter Here.” Once again, Mekawy and Morris blend keyboards and guitars, picking, strumming and adding melodic riffs to build the foundation. A. Hammond Murray takes a bass solo in the second verse area while Cozza keeps things to a shuffle before bursting out and joining the band in a big flourish that settles back into the main riff and motif. It’s been quite some time since I’ve heard a band do so much with clean sounds and mix them with a supercharged burst of bombastic proportions without coming off hokey, but this band does it and does it with a zeal that can be felt right through the speakers. Mekawy’s lyrical bend is somewhat dark, but I’ve always loved that direction.
“New York” is an upbeat and pocketed song that mixes cool, ’60s pop sensibilities with a bit of R&B to boot. A magnificent bridge and chorus dominate this ode to returning to the Big Apple. Keyboards whirl in the back as guitars chop rhythmic chords and lay down bluesy riffs and textures. The back eight is about as trippy as you can get as Mekawy blows out some charitable organ work into the end while his bandmates match his ferocity and meter.
“Untitled” really speaks for itself. Guitars start things off with a tight groove-oriented riff before tripping into a valley of chord washes as bassist Murray swings some intricate bass notes at Cozza. “Untitled” is about a lot of unanswerable questions, and Mekawy pushes the listener to think about the answers for themselves. “I don’t just know what to say; I don’t know what you want to hear, it all comes falling down, so unclear.” The atmospheric band work in the middle-eight supports Mekawy’s distorted vocals which act as an effective ploy to bring the song through its paces. The clean guitars keep coming back to the same intro groove, and it’s a fantastic compositional hook. The ending is a prog rock masterpiece that brings the boys back to the barn with plenty of steam to spare. “Inspiration isn’t cheap when it comes from fear.” Great song.
We’re just about out of space, but I wanted to mention the last song on the disc titled “Only One.” Lush guitars and keys back Mekawy’s echoed vocals as Murray and Cozza keep things tight and tempered. This song reminds me of John Lennon during the Mind Games period. Orchestrated and built for longevity, “Only One” grows bigger with each verse and chorus pass, flowing with creative chord choices and excellent melodic vocal choices. I love how everything is kept extremely simple in the verses, building up steam in the bridges until the choruses burst into the stratosphere. The Lennon-esque middle-eight is a great big flourish of arrangement prowess until the band resides back into its simple verse delivery. Probably one of my favorite songs on this full disc of completely original creativity.
Looms is a band that expertly melds highly listenable experimental and pop music with a unique delivery and a rare playing flair. They don’t grind along like punk, and they don’t vamp in rock and roll style but what they do is completely impressive and worth listening to if you get the chance. Do yourself a favor and pick up How It Has To Be and judge for yourself. Thanks to Little Dickman, they can count me as one of their growing fan base anytime. You will be able to see Looms live on Aug. 24 at the Asbury Brewery in Asbury Park, NJ.
For more info on Looms, head over to loomsmusicnyc.com.