It Hugs Back

Recommended Record

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Though Kent, England indie quartet It Hugs Back worked with legendary labels like Too Pure and 4AD for their earliest output, their 2012 sophomore full-length, Laughing Party, saw release on the band's own Safe & Sound imprint. Third album Recommended Record also came out on the band's label, and based on the nearly song-to-song stylistic shifts, it's possible that the complete artistic freedom of releasing their own music suits It Hugs Back best. Recommended Record's ten tracks blow by in just a little over half an hour, and all crackle with colorful production and the type of jangly pop touches that Supergrass and the Boo Radleys opened the doors for decades previously. Despite the threads of upbeat and sometimes naive-feeling guitar pop that hold Recommended Record together, the album is all over the place, to a sometimes jarring degree. The band embraces its various sides, with the results seldom spilling over onto more than one track. There's the indie folk side that emulates Wilco or Bright Eyes' slack chamber pop on "Lower." The side that leans more toward a spectral, overblown take on glam rock shows up on "Go Magic!" and "Sa Sa Sa Sails," both following the spacy pop blueprint of Super Furry Animals. There's a track of interlocking synth patterns and Krautrock rhythms, a few shoegazey moments, and "Skateboard Rhythm" even calls up the indie drone-pop of Yo La Tengo, complete with noisy guitar over a hypnotizing repeated two-note riff. Rarely do the constant shifts distract from the album's overall strength, but it still happens at times. The distorted scream-fest "Big Sighs" is an aggravating low point, but segues directly into "Teenage Hands," a breathy slice of pre-Loveless MBV-styled shoegaze and easily the best track on the record. Recommended Record is a super-stylized collage of sounds, clearly put together by big music fans, and it's ambitious palette of sounds only occasionally falters.

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