Little Rock is about the last place one would expect to find a first-rate indie-rock band, but sure enough, the ingenious ensemble known as Bear Colony are out to prove all of us wrong. Four years removed from their critically lauded debut, the band is back with Soft Eyes, an engaging and arresting effort that does little if anything wrong. Album opener "We Don't Know Harm I," is meteoric and transcendent and veritable proof of this band's magnetism, potency and power. Equal parts lush, buzzy and brilliant, it is far too brief. But then again, maybe that's the point. "We Don't Know Harm I," is more or less a teaser, an invitation, a way of slowly enticing the listener to stay with them. If one chooses to stick around what follows is sure to please.
Whether its the uber-catchy "Go Home to Something," or the deeply melodic "Bad Blood," the album's first half is a veritable sucker punch of winning choruses and meaty guitar textures. The quartet is adept at slowing down the pace and wading in both mid-tempo and down-tempo atmospherics, and nowhere is that more visible than on the chugging "Monster," and the lush "Youth Orchestra." But that last song more or less serves as the drop off point. "Lights on the Domestic," is pleasant and amiable but not nearly as impacting as its predecessors, a trait that is also shared by "The Hysterics." The album's penultimate cut "We Don't' Know Harm II," is better than the first version but still leaves a bit to be desired. It is almost as if the band is spent from all the torments of melodrama and dissatisfaction in the album's earlier half that they've left little room in the second half. When you break it down however, the reality is there are many bands that would ache to write songs this good. That "The Hysterics," or "Lights of the Domestic," don't reach the transcendent heights of their predecessors is only because the top half of the album is undeniably magnetic.
When all is said and done, Soft Eyes is most definitely worth coming back to. In addition to the above listed tracks, there's also the twinkling and gloaming quasi-instrumental "A Ladder to the Clouds," the surging instrumental "Cult of No Sleep," and the epic instrumental "I Sing Mountains," which stews together a cascade of emotions into one three minute slice of perfection. And it is there that one can see why Soft Eyes is such a treat to listen to. These Arkansas boys can craft music with an effortlessness that is too hard to pass up. Limitless in their talent, Bear Colony are a sterling collective that demand a far wider audience. One can only hope Soft Eyes is the album that garners them the success they deserve.
Saw these guys open for, I think, mewithoutYou back in '08 or so. Good show, and although I never got into their debut, I was intrigued to see they had a new album coming out. Will have to give this a listen.