ALBUM REVIEW: Cold Beat “Over Me”


As far as I’m concerned, Hannah Lew–though she plays the bass–is first and foremost a vocal magician. Admittedly that’s because of her work with Grass Widow, the wondrously spooky San Francisco female trio that operates as a kind of tapestry, weaving all three of its members voices together. The result? A cloud of effortlessly harmonized soprano that rises up over post-punkish, surfer-rockish, guitar jangling. The voices are so effervescent that the harmony they make is weightless, and they’re so firmly interlocked that they sound like one big instrument.

They aren’t, though. Lew, who has been writing songs both on her own and with Grass Widow for years, began performing as Cold Beat in 2013 in order to develop on independent voice to run alongside her collaborative one. The full-length Cold Beat debut Over Me, while not quite our first taste of what Lew sounds like solo–she put out a two-song EP called Worms last November–is the first chance we’ve had to see her experiment with her full range as a songwriter.

While she was making it, Lew envisioned Over Me as a catharsis album tinged with paranoia. “Mirror,” the first single to be released, represents Cold Beat at the height of its over caffeinated anxiety, and the blood-letting doesn’t stop with high-energy freak outs. “Abandon,” coming squarely in the middle of the record, plunges us down low to new depths of bleak self-loathing, and then dissolves mid-track into an understated and moody instrumental breakdown. It’s worth noting, by the way, that while the album is unmistakably trauma-centric, I’m extrapolating each track’s particulars from the way the music sounds, not what the words are saying. Cold Beat’s lyrics, like Grass Widow’s, are often difficult to understand, beyond being ominous.

In fact, maybe the blurry lyrics have something to do with the sense of distance you can hear in Lew’s voice. She’s constantly far off on the horizon; she’s aloof in the most punk rock possible way. She soars like a flying superhero across the convulsing, repetitive music beneath her. Her voice is ethereal but bloodless, and about halfway through this album, it occurs to me that the lack of three voices on Over Me translates to a subtle lack of humanness. The aesthetic is aces, after all. The contrast of a faraway voice over a cleverly collaged mashup of retro and DIY sounds, the vague sense of anguish–all fantastically rendered.. The problem lies in that, though both vocals and music are compelling, one is forever floating above the other. Put more plainly: I like Over Me for its loveliness, but it doesn’t hook me by the guts.

Over Me is out on July 8th on Hannah Lew’s own label Crime On The Moon. Preorder your copy here! Check out the subtly bizarre video for “Mirror” below:

Cold Beat – Mirror from Renny McCauley on Vimeo.

VIDEO REVIEW: Cold Beat “Mirror”

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Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, I can happily say that the summer has unofficially begun, and if you are like me, then you are probably gearing up your Summer ‘14 Spotify playlist. Heads up: it would be incomplete without the likes of Cold Beat, who released a video for their delightful new track “Mirror” yesterday.

Although front woman, vocalist and bassist Hannah Lew has been on the scene for a while now, San Francisco-based Cold Beat is a newborn band, with only two previous singles under their belt: “Worms” and “Year 5772.” Still, what we have heard thus far is a clear indication of the band’s sound – combining retro fuzz guitar with misty vocals and sugar-sweet melodies.

“Mirror” plays as neat and tidy, retro surf pop. Right off the bat, it opens up with an inviting two-part guitar section. While one guitar takes on the fuzzy strumming section, the other picks away at an instantly catchy melody that immediately opens up the song. Throughout “Mirror” the interplay between the two guitar parts can be heard, coming to a climax in two brief back-to-back solos. The first, a distorted guitar laying hard on the whammy pedal, adds some needed intensity to the track, while the second, a melodically picked section, breathes more air into the song and further relaxes the track.

Lew’s vocals enter into the mix early on. Although her misty, breathy voice is more suited for soprano, where she normally resides, “Mirror” requires her to occasionally fall down into her lower register, where she is clearly less comfortable. The imperfections in her lower register actually add to the charm of the track, providing a more personal tone by offsetting the pop perfection.

The video for “Mirror” was directed by Lew herself, and unsurprisingly, it falls in line with the beachy, sunny theme that Cold Beat has already adopted. The video begins with Lew playing the bass in front of a giant clam shell with waves crashing in the background. This image, which is projected on an old TV screen, zooms out, and we see that the new image is inside another TV, which is next to the drummer.  Then we zoom out to find out that she is also in a TV world that the guitarist is watching and playing along to. Throughout the video, the members of the band interact with each other in their own worlds, using the televisions as mirrors into each others’ universes, each imbued with a kitschy nostalgia. From the ‘90s era television set to the cheesy special effects (from aforementioned giant clams and box TVs zooming around to rooms decorated with paper stars), the whole video manages to come off as charmingly vintage.

Much like “Worms,” “Mirror” has us totally anticipating Cold Beat’s debut album, Over Me, which will be released on July 8th via Lew’s label, Crime on the Moon. As if she weren’t busy enough, Lew is also set to release a compilation album San Francisco Is Doomed, featuring contributions from artists such as Thee Oh Sees, Mikal Cronin, Erase Errata and Scraper. San Francisco Is Doomed is out June 21st.

Cold Beat – Mirror from Renny McCauley on Vimeo.


EP REVIEW: Cold Beat “Worms/Year 5772”




Bassist Hannah Lew has released three albums with psychedlic indie rock trio Grass Widow since the band’s debut in 2009, all of them zany, DIY concoctions combining grungy post punk guitar riffs, softly billowing three-part harmony, and space aliens. Now, Lew brings this signature blend to her new band Cold Beat, whose first EP came out yesterday on its frontwoman’s own label, Crime on the Moon.

The themes of self-creation and the way towards creating one’s own reality loom large. This somewhat unimaginatively titled EP consists of two originals, “Worms” and “Year 5772”, followed up by a remix of each of those tracks. Familiar, simple rock and roll distortion coexists with futuristic electronic synth lines, and soft vocals that hang lightly over everything. No one aspect is all that complex, but the combination evokes a sometimes joyful, sometimes disturbed surreality, as if the music underwent a kind of refraction while traveling through outer space.

If these two tracks were less pretty, though, that effect would hit harder. Though the EP brims with high-energy and superheroic-sounding post punk, the sweetness of Lew’s voice is sometimes damned by its own whimsicality, and verges on twee. The harp trills on the Pow! remix of “Worms” escalate the album’s dreaminess too far into preciousness, and Lew’s voice, when in its silvery higher range, adopts a fancifulness that often reads as affected. I craved something grittier and more varied.

This slim EP bodes well for Cold Beat, though: in just two tracks, the group fully realizes and inhabits the world they’ve created. With all the momentum created on Worms, a full-length album from the group can’t be too far off. In the meantime, stream the EP from Rookie Mag, and check out the video for “Worms” below:

COLD BEAT – “WORMS” from Mike Stoltz on Vimeo.

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