James Iha, Look To The Sky review

James Iha, Look To The SkyJames Iha, guitarist and founding member of Smashing Pumkins, is back with his debut solo album, Look To The Sky. Brit-pop sounds combine with alt-Americana to form the backdrop of

the new record. It features an amazing array of collaborations, including Sara Quin (Tegan and Sara), Karen O & Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Nina Persson (The Cardigans, Sparklehorse), Kelly Pratt (Beirut, Arcade Fire), Julia Kent (Antony and the Johnsons), Kevin March (Guided by Voices, Shudder to Think), Tom Verlaine (Television), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy, Tinted Windows), Josh Lattanzi (The Candles, The Lemonheads, Ben Kweller), and Mike Garson (David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins).

Starting off with mellow pop in opening track, Make Believe, James Iha sets the tone for the album with sweet indie overlaid with digital notes, giving the song a sort of futuristic feel in parts.

It’s a theme that continues throughout the album, especially on highlight, To Who Knows Where. However, here there is a fuzzy haze in the background and occasional wailing guitar riffs, making it the closest track to alt rock, although the interlude brings the sweeter tones back to Look To The Sky.

While Gemeni struggles to stand out to begin with, it’s got a lot of crunch in the chorus that wakes it up dramatically. Speed of Love is a bit on the cheesy side, with an eighties feel, but Till Next Tuesday returns to elements of the alt ethos that made up Smashing Pumkins, with lyrics filled with the apathy of slacker rock.

Summer Days is similarly understated, but it all crinkles up into Them Crooked Vultures darkness in Appetite, which is the black heart of the ring leader. It adds a new layer to Look To The Sky, taking things away from the safer territory. The piano freakout with digitised mentalness towards the end is well worth listening to on loop.

Dream Tonight is filled with more sweet indie-pop, but there’s an infectiousness to it that’s hard to fight on a Sunday night.

New Years Day feels like it was inspired in parts by David Bowie, switching the future into present day, but the chorus is slightly one dimensional, taking away a little of its sheen. However, things slow down for the lullaby of Waves with a rhythmic beat and soothing chant. It’s a tempo that carries over into A String Of Words, which has some beautiful strings, acoustic rhythm and xylophone chimes.

4th Of July is another slow track with lovelorn qualities and a bit too much wet manchego, but Dark Star closes the album with some undertone vocals, haunting guitar sounds and a hypnotic percussion mix.

James Iha’s Look To The Sky may not necessarily be a steamroller of excitement, but for fans of Iha or Smashing Pumkins it’s a good addition to the record collection with slow-moments of great clarity and delivery. It’s never going to feature at a party, but it’s got a lot for nights in or quiet trips. The more you listen to it, the more you appreciate it, which is always a good thing.

James Iha, Look To The Sky review: 3.8/5

James Iha, Look To The Sky tracklist:

1. Make Believe
2. To Who Knows Where
3. Gemini
4. Speed of Love
5. Till Next Tuesday
6. Summer Days
7. Appetite
8. Dream Tonight
9. New Year’s Day
10. Waves
11. A String of Words
12. 4th of July
13. Dark Star