Bear In Heaven | I Love You, It’s Cool
Most likely to: Be told “I love you too.”
We hipster music critic types sometimes have a difficult time of it. We’re supposed to like all kinds of crap that no normal human being would enjoy just because it’s “challenging.” In that light, it’s hard to ever know for sure how we’re supposed to feel when a band that starts out stirring up a cacophonous, but still enjoyable, shitstorms of noise eventually ends up laying down smooth grooves that wouldn’t horrify even little Sally down the street. We almost feel obligated to bitch about it. “But…but…that’s not how these things are done! Damn it, if you start making music everyone can like, how am I going to feel superior by liking you?”
A good case in point would be Brooklyn’s Bear in Heaven. Back in 2007, their debut longplayer Red Bloom of the Boom could best be described as the halfway point between M83 and Faust. It was full of tunes that felt like cut-and-paste pastiches of symphonically layered keyboard epics and harsh industrial noise and hitting every note in between in the course of one five minute track. Then, the follow-up, 2010’s Beast Rest Forth Mouth, smoothed out their sound considerably and streamlined it down to a catchy brand of synth-based dance music dosed with large dollops of psychedelia. It was more conventional, but still pretty bent.
And now comes I Love You, It’s Cool, on which Bear in Heaven pretty up their music even more than on Beast Rest Forth Mouth. This is the point where cries of “sell-out” would normally begin to be heard, but it’s doubtful that too many will be heard. For one thing, the audience for Red Bloom of the Boom, that five-year-old experimental debut, likely numbered in the dozens at most, and therefore almost everyone who’s discovered the band has done so after they’d already taken the first steps towards accessibility, and are unlikely to get too bent out of shape about it. For another thing, in today’s pop music environment where the mass audience turns up its nose even at seemingly commercial sure things like Goldfrapp, Bear in Heaven are still weird enough that there’s no real danger of them being discovered by the great unwashed masses of Katy-loving Philistines.
Most of all, though, no one’s going to get too upset about Bear in Heaven’s increased conventionality because the results are just so damn good. On I Love You, It’s Cool, Bear in Heaven come off like a Yankee version of French electronic music. Echoes of Air and the aforementioned M83 can be heard all through the album as the Brooklynites build indelible hooks out of lushly layered synthesizer licks and trippy bass lines, while Jon Philpot’s ethereal vocals float over the proceedings like the disembodied voice of God.
The entire album overflows with gorgeous soundscapes that don’t just skirt the lines dividing synth-pop from trance music from psychedelia – they render any divisions between those genres obsolete. Where Bear in Heaven started out as a group that could veer between sounding like The Human League to sounding like Pink Floyd at the drop of hat, they’ve evolved into a band that doesn’t need to do any veering. Now they manage to sound like The Human League and Pink Floyd simultaneously and sometimes toss in some Cure or Joy Division or Portishead just to mix things up. It’s a damn lovely piece of work.
In an indie-rock world where being difficult is sometimes praised as an end unto itself, Bear in Heaven demonstrate that being accessible is not a bad thing at all. Bear in Heaven show that it’s possible to have one’s cake and eat it, too, and that a band with talent and vision can make music that is every bit as creative and challenging as anything the most abstruse experimental combo churns out, and is a stellar bit of ear candy.
Check out the vid for single “The Reflection of You”: