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Bear In Heaven
I Love You It’s Cool
Dead Oceans / Hometapes; 2012

Indie bands have been attempting to figure out how to make a really good guitar-less rock record ever since Radiohead dropped Kid A to critical acclaim in 2000. It’s not that people haven’t tried in the past decade – chillwave as a micro-genre represented such an effort, but the results were always mixed. Making a synth-fronted pop album with nice beats and hooks is one thing. The difficulty musicians face has always been that you have to create a catchy, kinetic batch of songs that still manages to “rock” without the overt use of that most fundamental of instruments.

Whether or not this was the actual goal for I Love You It’s Cool, it certainly seems that Bear In Heaven has made such an album. The ten-song project bursts at the seams with beautiful, glistening psych rock laden with gorgeous atmospherics. Imagine the reverb-soaked vocals of early My Morning Jacket or Band Of Horses floating atop music that combines the best impulses of Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, and The Flaming Lips. The syncopated drumming lays down an intense batch of grooves, while rich, luxurious synth pads are layered with precision and purpose.

Pulsating rock oomph stands firmly alongside bubbling, dreamy washes of sound, crafting a listening experience that is both overtly trippy and subtly swinging. The arrangements are tight and pop-formatted, which eliminates any tendency to manufacture an epic, over-the-top anthem that might come across as plodding, over-long, or masturbatory. To my ears, it’s the excellent breaks and transitions that give the record its life, as the band never settles on one groove to carry a song. Then again, it could be the fact that the music simply resists the sort of lazy, over-wrought clichés that come with trying to make music of this nature.

The influences playing together here - prog rock, disco, goth-rock, and spacey electronica – might make little sense on the surface to the casual listener, but Bear In Heaven finds a way to create a harmonious album. Thus, even though tracks like “Sinful Nature,” “Kiss Me Crazy,” “World Of Freakout,” and “Space Remains” are superb in their own right, I Love You It’s Cool is a masterful record that is very much a complete work that the listener needs to digest whole. I’m not here to say that it will ever be counted as on par with Kid A, but it certainly serves as a worthy descendent or acolyte of the moods and tradition that Kid A initially cultivated.