From the first lush chords, smooth basslines, and woozy velvet vocals of opening track, “Idle Heart”, Bear In Heaven take us through a wash of hallucinogenic Brooklyn indie pop. This, the band’s fourth studio album, shows a move towards the mid-tempo chillwave that sculpted last summer’s hazy soundscape. First single “Reflection of You”, and an obvious standout track from the album, relies on the warm keys and driving rhythm in both the drums and arpeggiated synths to support a fairly simple, albeit effective, vocal melody. This is undeniable pop, but a luxurious breed of pop that lures you in with sensual strings that mask the songs primitive innards.
However, this glossy exterior can only prop up the album for so long. The washy atmosphere that was at first so beguiling fades into blurry Coldplay style ‘muzak’, when spread over fourty-four minutes. Even the second single “Sinful Nature”, (in which the band seem to time travel back to 1983) with its darker feel and ethereal electronics, stretches out for just a little too long, losing its lustre about half way through the five minute slog. As the album progresses we get the growing feeling that this is a band who have taken a good idea and attempted to turn it into ten tracks.
Despite this, the production is slick and the songs are well crafted; the frustration stems from the feeling that the Brooklyn trio are holding back from a far more varied sound. The album lacks the glorious euphoria of M83’s recent release, or the chilled funk of Washed Out or Gold Panda. The remaining murky grey area in which the album seems to fall makes it hard for these Bears to create anything that remains consistently heavenly.
At times the album can overexpose its influences, the fingerprints of early 80s bands A Flock of Seagulls and Tangerine Dream are easy to spot all over the album, and the band appear to embrace them rather than attempting to cover them. With few real hooks, either instrumental or vocal, to keep us captivated, it is easy to let ‘I Love You, It’s Cool’ glide silkily into the background. One dimensionality restrains the band from exploiting the full dizzying depths of the electronic pop sensibility they have adopted, but perhaps the blurry blandness of these simple songs give the ears a break from the similar but more experimental bands that flood this crowded genre.By Livvy Harman