Who is Bear in Heaven? This is a question you had better answer for yourself if you wish to be in tune with the underground music circuit in the next few months. I first got wind of this noise-pop band as what I would call a “RIYL” band (Recommended if you like) after listening to Youth Lagoon. Youth Lagoon is a dream-pop act that would appeal to fans of Bon Iver and Owl City alike, so needless to say, I was intrigued to see what this Bear in Heaven group would sound like. Besides, I had heard they put on engaging performances as well. Memorable, ethereal dream-like performances from a band that sounds like Youth Lagoon? Sign me up!
Well, does Bear in Heaven sound like Youth Lagoon? Yes and no. The best way to describe them would be as a more accessible Animal Collective. As such, it’s hard to break down the album into a track by track synopsis. Passive listening will not do the band justice. I have seen this theme be echoed in many places throughout my Bear in Heaven due diligence. Even the press release in the album exhorted me to blast the record through my best stereo, lest I miss any “nuance” from the record. Some of the nuances are very abrupt and bold (as on “Space Remains ” or “World of Freakout”) but most are, as the hype might suggest, subtle.The final track “Sweetness and Sickness” is predictably the juggernaut here. The noise in noise-pop is diminished to more of a white-noise-pop rather than a full blown din noise pop.
You might be thinking that since Animal Collective is hard to describe, maybe there are some other influences that creep in that might sway you toward or away from this band more easily. Or, you might not be familiar with the phrases noise pop or shoegaze (that’s another genre that’s a relative of noise pop, but I digress). New Wave, or just plain 80s music ought to be a phrase that most are familiar with. See “Sinful Nature” for an example. What comes to mind when you hear that intro. It’s a bit analog-y, like something Joy Electric would come up with on his monosynthesizer.
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So is Bear in Heaven recommended? Most definitely. Are they catchy? Not really. But is this fun to listen to? You betcha. My one regret is finding out about them less than a month after they played a show at the intimate The Basement venue in my hometown. I should have gone!