It Hugs Back

Inside Your Guitar

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    8
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Equal parts mellow, breezy, and cozy, It Hugs Back's Inside Your Guitar makes listeners feel like they very well could be tucked inside the band's instruments -- or in bed for a nice nap or some daydreaming. Though their debut album is considerably more polished and focused-sounding than their EPs, the uniquely winsome quality of It Hugs Back's music remains, with buzzing keyboards and fuzzy guitars (and occasionally, fuzzy keyboards and buzzing guitars). Matthew Simms' vocals barely rise above a whisper on these songs, whether they're slow-building epics like album opener "Q" or "Work Day"'s strummy pop. Even on the relatively rocking "Remember," the band never sounds like it's breaking a sweat, and there are no hard edges to their music even when the drums are crashing. However, what Inside Your Guitar's hazy sweetness lacks in force, it more than makes up in charm. "Now & Again" is just as dreamy as it is immediate, and also shows just how effortlessly It Hugs Back borrow from and update Yo La Tengo's classic era; "Back Down" is so off-handedly majestic that it could pass for a Painful B-side. Elsewhere, shades of Stereolab's lockgrooves bubble to the surface on "Don't Know," and "Forgotten Song" echoes the Clientele's soft-focus pop. Despite these nods to the band's forebears, It Hugs Back spend most of Inside Your Guitar crafting their own identity and a remarkably unified mood. At times, the album seems in danger of becoming a little too cohesive, but moments like "Soon," which moves from barely there electronics to gentle brass and string flourishes, and "Unaware," which unfolds from jangly indie pop into an elegantly layered coda, prove that It Hugs Back's sound has more variety than might be expected on first listen. The same could be said for Inside Your Guitar as a whole -- its delicacy has a way of sticking with you longer than some much louder bands' music does.

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