[5 November 2008]
The Bears’ second full-length opens with their best song, the swirling, swooning, indefinitely moody “Please Don’t”. The song is all cloudy harmonies and squiggly 1960s organ, paced in a vaguely chest-vibrating way by the simplest of bass lines and broken by handclaps. Melodically, its sweetness is shadowed somewhat with minor key harmonies and fading vocal flourishes. It’s a half-smile of a song, braced by sighs, about a boy who needs some space, and it could take its place alongside of recent work from the Donkeys, the Botticellis and the Papercuts as quintessential California pop. The irony: The Bears are from Cleveland. Ever hear a song about Ohio dreaming?
Let’s set geography aside, though, because songs like “Wait and See” and closer “Everything I Need” casually nail the jangly, day-dreamy, not-trying-too-hard tunefulness associated with the Golden State. Led by songwriters Charlie McArthur and Craig Ramsey, and supported by a full complement of two-guitars-bass-drums-keyboards, the Bears build dense but filmy textures of musical sound. Love and out-of-love songs predominate, embellished often with enlivening, real-life details. In “Another Tiger Romance”, a lover ponders the nesting panda doll he bought for his girl four happy years ago. In “Subtle Way”, another enamored soul thinks fondly about antiquing and eating maple candy with his beloved. And yet every happy song carries a tinge of sadness, every sad song the subtle ballast of joy. “I’m letting you go and moving on,” sing the Bears, late in the album, as keyboards chime, drums pound and an indefinable ray of sunshine seeps into their sound. Very nice.