Form a band. Make an album. Tour like hell. Repeat ad infinitum. Such is the cycle for the workmanlike bands that often populate the indie scene. Such bands will take a break wherever they can get it, and fortunately Bear In Heaven got a big one relatively early on in their career. Their debut album, Red Bloom of The Boom, was an album of mostly serviceable takes on a spacey post-rock sound, characterized--as singer Jon Philpot put it--by “nothings.” It was the emptiness that was largely more important than the songwriting therein. They demonstrated an early dynamic touch, but who would’ve guessed what was coming on the basis of that release.
So came 2009’s Beast Rest Forth Mouth an album full of “more somethings, less nothings.” It’s danceable nature and indebtedness to the heavier ends of shoegaze led to an interesting melding of sounds new and old. It was M83’s wall of synthesizer sound, but focused less on being epic and more on getting bodies to move. The album met almost universal praise and the band toured behind it for quite some time, milking every last bit out of outstanding singles like ‘Lovesick Teenagers’ and ‘You Do You’. And it was these singles that drove their popularity. As solid as Beast Rest Forth Mouth was, it was certainly more track driven than a single immersive experience. Bear in Heaven was, at that point, a band with a really solid concept that was able to manifest itself across an album of very solid tracks.
Here we are with I Love You, It’s Cool, their newest collection of tracks. But perhaps a “collection of tracks” is an improper phrase. These tracks have a cohesion heretofore unforeseen in the Bear In Heaven catalog. It’s more sedated, sure, and the huge peaks of tracks like ‘Wholehearted Mess‘ are almost entirely discarded, but the release works entirely well nonetheless. Lead single ‘Reflection of You’ is perhaps the best indication of their new direction. All hints of empty space are filled with arpeggios and synth chords, all the while maintaining the kraut-y nature that underpinned all their previous work. It may be a little harder to dance to, sure, but it’s perfect music to zone out to. It never reaches the magnificent heights of previous Bear In Heaven, but it works. The way Philpot intones the title of the song is just about as catchy as Bear In Heaven gets. Despite the fact that the melodies are more rambling, that seems more of a callback to the spacey nature of Red Bloom Of The Boom than any songwriting slight. Sure, it may take a bit more for these tracks to stick, but on the whole the record becomes a more rewarding listen for it.
Something like the mid-album ‘Kiss Me Crazy’ might have seemed disposable on Beast Rest Forth Mouth, but its slow build here represents one of the more interesting moments on a record more content to float by. Here, on this record, Bear In Heaven has settled into a groove, comfortable in their synth sounds, comfortable in the 80s aping (‘World Of Freakout’ certainly exemplifies this), but it’s a groove that benefits us. They’re no longer a band trying on a sound for size, they’ve established their sound and they’re finally making records that seem like the cohesive product of one mindset
Form a band. Make an album. Tour like hell. It’s records like I Love You, It’s Cool that can release bands from this daily grind. It’s not a record that will likely be remembered down the line as one of the greatest of our era, but it’s one that may allow Bear In Heaven the creative freedom to make such a record.