Bear Hands are a fairly unknown band who formed in 2006 and released their debut in 2010. While that album did well enough in the indie circuit, it wasn’t until this 2014 LP that they got more exposure. Mashing up different musical sounds from hip-hop to new wave the best way to describe them is experimental rock and this is what makes them so interesting. While they have plenty of catchy songs to keep you dancing, they also have unique tracks with various sounds to keep the listener on their toes.
Things kick off with the slow, atmospheric vibe of “Moment of Silence.” This song has a spiritual mood to it as the light, airy music dances around and vocalist Dylan Rau sings “Oh, let the birds of a feather sing of the pain that the pleasure brings/of the change in the western wind and the changed direction.” Just when you think you have the track figured out, it shifts gears introducing electronic elements making for bright, peppy music. The entire thing is very uplifting and puts you in a good mood. The same can be said for “Giants,” arguably the best song on the album. With it’s big, boombastic sound and simple, catchy chorus of “I am loving you more” it has a great party vibe. Rau’s singing style and the format of the track have a slight reggae feel to them, while the music is a great mix of synth, new wave, and alt rock. You may not know what the song is about, but you do know it’s awesome.
One thing that makes this band stand out are their song topics. “Agora” addresses agoraphobia and the effect it has on the protagonist’s social life. Even though it’s another catchy track, it has a moment of bleakness when Rau sings “When I am gone/Ain’t no more crying.” The same goes for “Sleeping on the Floor.” The listener is greeted with fun, upbeat music, but the lyrics talk about a hoarder defending their behavior. Though the topic of shitty friends has been covered before, Bear Hands makes it more relatable on the bittersweet “Bad Friend.” It talks about that one person who you can’t depend on and maybe you don’t talk to them as much, but you can’t help but love them. They probably aren’t the first band to talk about these issues, but you don’t find many of them doing it in 2014.
While tracks like the 80’s inspired “Bone Digger” and paranoid “Party Hats” will be stuck in your heads for days, there are a couple of songs that aren’t that great. “Thought Wrong” is interesting in terms of music since it has a hip-hop feel, but it’s kind of dull compared to other exciting songs on the LP. It’s really slow and Rau sings softly about the end of a relationship. It’s not terrible, but when most of your album is upbeat and fun it doesn’t hold up well. “Vile Iowa” has the same issue. It’s another slow track with more low key singing from Rau, but this one comes off a little cheesy with the chorus “You’re a star in my eyes.” It’s supposed to be a sweet sentiment, but it misses the mark. Aside from these two tracks, the rest of the album is great.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. The catchy songs, unique topics, mesh of genres show Bear Hands to be a promising act. They’re another one of these bands that refuses to be labeled. One track has them penned as alt-rock while the next has them as a new age act with their atmospheric and flowing music. The album isn’t perfect with only a couple weak songs, but it doesn’t affected the record too much. If anything, this effort shows Bear Hands to be an interesting and talented band, who will hopefully make more genre defying music in the future.