Cold Beat is the new project from bassist/vocalist Hannah Lew of San Francisco indie rockers Grass Widow. On their debut, Lew takes over as bandleader, songwriter and primary vocalist, purring out clean, choir-like vocals amid plucky new wave tunes.
The band excels at grabby intros - by guitars (Kyle King), drums (Bianca Sparta), or Lew's own bass-playing - that whip you into each song and spit you out quickly. (Over half the tunes come in under three minutes.) You'd be forgiven for mistaking the band for whimsical dream poppers, but not all the songs are straight-up sunny fun. Unexpected, dark twists emerge. Falling Skyline, for example, gets a loud, clashing guitar interlude before the one-minute mark.
It gets tiring trying to figure out what Lew is saying (mostly, her vocals are mixed a touch too low), but the themes are hinted at in her sober delivery. Mirror, for instance, is immediately punchy and upbeat, but the words "looking at my face, yet there's nothing at all" reveal some malaise.
Top track: Mirror