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Bear Colony

Soft Eyes

(Esperanza Plantation; US: 13 Nov 2012; UK: 13 Nov 2012)

Bear Colony’s sophomore record finds the Arkansas band trying to figure out what it is, and Soft Eyes becomes an exploration into all corners of the dream-pop and, sometimes, rock landscape. Opener “We Don’t Know Harm I” is a swirling tone setter, a spaced-out expansive pop song that will worm its way under your skin. Much of the rest of the record, though, feels unsure about what to do once it’s there. The next song, “Go Home to Something”, tries thundering industrial pop, but it feels both too glossy and, with those big drums in the back, ham-handed, while “A Ladder to the Clouds” is an unconvincing sound experiment from a band with rigid structure everywhere else.


There are interesting songs here, like the cotton-candy layers of “Flash Retort” and the moodier, textured “Youth Orchestra”. Unfortunately, though, much of the record seems to bury immediacy over thick production, so the songs feel overworked and sap the music of its more immediate underpinnings. There’s a good band under all these layers, but Soft Eyes buries its strengths more than it brings them out.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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