Since dropping their debut album Red Bloom of the Boom in 2007, Brooklyn three piece Bear in Heaven have been on a steady upward trajectory. It helped that their second album, 2010’s Beast Rest Fourth Mouth contained one of those tracks that ends up being a ubiquitous indie anthem (See fellow Brooklyn acts The Walkmen and Interpol with “The Rat” and “PDA” respectively). “Lovesick Teenagers” more than held its own within such company, and set them up nicely to make that leap into the outskirts of the mainstream.
Tentative steps were made with I Love You It’s Cool in 2012. Ditching the lo-fi warmth of previous material, they embraced bigger beats, synths that screamed “POP” and a cleaner approach to production. The end result was overwhelming however, and sadly left the band sounding lost within glistening technology. With a new drummer in tow, their fourth album harks back to the sound of Beast Rest… and strips the electronic touches right back.
The improvements are immediate. Opening track “Autumn” is a sparkling way to open an album. With its one note synth lines, weird seagull effects and fuzz bass pieced together with rampant drums and Jon Philpot’s intriguing high pitched choir boy vocals, it’s a statement of intent, showing that they embrace technology but can now control it, rather than have it control them.
“They Dream” is a prime example of how effective it was to strip back the layers that strangled their songs last time. Tentative drums and rising synth notes create a modern take on the crescendo of noise that closes The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life”. This breaks down into an expansive ambient section with Philpot crooning “She really loves him” over and over again in a way that could pass off as soul classic “First Time Ever I saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, but performed by guys who could pass for petrol pump attendants. “The Sun And The Moon And The Stars” is another high point, one on which synths are a side-line to the shoegazey guitars and dreamy low pace.
“Demon” is equally low key, but uses Vangelis-influenced synths and female “oohs” and “ahhs” to build up to a final third of acidic squelches and offbeat bass . The glitchy, beat free “Dissolve The Walls” is detached and cinematic, leading perfectly up to closer “You Don’t Need The World”, the the track nearest to what they were attempting on I Love You serving as a way to right the wrongs of that album. Cloudy production, stoned beats, ghostly atmospherics and yearning, romanticised lyrics (“You don’t need the world/to live another day/ the world could bring you down in such a heady way/the world could come between us/and never break your heart”) combining for form an epic closer to an otherwise unassuming piece of work.