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Study Guide: Bear in Heaven 4/25

Study Guide: Bear in Heaven 4/25
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By Jack Daniel Betz

Experimental Brooklyn band Bear in Heaven have not been exactly the most accessible. Their debut “Red Bloom of the Boom” is a sometimes sinister, coldly electronic, release that shirks many pop music conventions that even most “experimental” acts use to guide themselves in writing. Progressive rock is even a bit generous for the depth of the navel-gazing on here. The closing track “For Beauty” sounds like the evil, interstellar space noise of Tangerine Dream’s 1972 album “Zeit”. “Bag of bags” and “Slow Gold” work well as extended experimental electro-rock for people patient enough to soak it in (like me) but not everyone will see it that way.

2009’s “Beast Rest Forth Mouth” is a bit more grounded in concrete song-writing, guided by the thankfully regular beats of arpegiators on album “hits” like the detached but somehow still maudlin “Lovesick Teenagers”. That song got some attention from pitchfork and was even featured on the short lived American iteration of the controversial British TV show “Skins”. “Lovesick Teenagers” acts as a theme that, whether or not it was intended, the entire album seems built around. The brooding mood is similar all throughout and there are even some re-purposing of melodies on different tracks similar to Justice album “Cross”.

Apparently their latest, “I love you, it’s cool” just dropped as I was writing this but I’ve taken a break and soaked it in enough to get the gist. Compared to the rest of their catalog there are notes of unprecedented warmth on this one. Of course, given their style and delivery, the warmth is mediated by an equal measure of alienation and aloofness but still it’s a marked shift. Most specifically I’m referring to “The Reflection of You” which has a dancy tempo and vocals worthy of Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. The rest of the album does follow suit though and has a poppier construction that will definitely win over more fans turned off by their first two releases. It comes off not as brooding but more pensive, and much less depressive. Already there are criticisms that the band is taking a nebulous direction but I disagree.

CHEAT SHEET

Songs they are sure to play: “Lovesick Teenagers”, “Dust Cloud”, “The Reflection of You”

What Pitchfork thinks: 7.5 for “I love you. . .” which is kind of an impressive score, coming from them.

Sounds like: OMD, MGMT, Choir of Young Believers

Other assignments: Watch the music video for “The Reflection of You”. It’s like that seizure-inducing episode of pokémon but set to atmospheric 80s dance music.

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