Bear Colony: Soft Eyes
When a band is a collective with anywhere from 6 to 12 members, there’s bound to be many different musical influences. Bear Colony’s sophomore album, Soft Eyes, is an indie/electronic/ambient mix that channels Cut Copy on one song, Arcade Fire on another, adds in a little Death Cab for Cutie, then switches to a spacey ambient track. Somehow, it works, as does the ever-changing group.
Vocalist Vincent Griffin admits that most of the album was inspired by his mother whose health was deteriorating since the group started working on this album back in 2009. After the album was mixed and mastered, she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and passed away in September. The album, which is dedicated to her, isn’t the downer you would expect. Without knowing the background, you likely wouldn’t notice what I would describe as a soft melancholy on some of the tracks. Once you know it’s there, you pick up on some dark-ish lyrics. In fact, I would say the album is more hopeful than downtrodden. “Bad Blood” has some religious references, mostly seeming to refer to the lack of hope in the situation with lyrics like “Jesus doesn’t live here anymore” and “crosses on the walls/roaches that crawl crawl crawl.” Both versions of “We Don’t Know Harm” question what happens to our souls after we’re dead and gone, however the song gets hopeful with lyrics like “everything will be fine” and a line about rays of sunshine.
The fluttery keyboard and harmonized vocals on “Monster” create an amazing track. The overlapping vocals on “Bad Blood” make it stand out as a great song over what might have just been a good song with the soft plinking of a piano, rolling drums, light tambourine, and distorted guitars. “Flask Retort” stands out for being peppier and more electronic than the others, it reminded me of Cut Copy. “Lights on the Domestic” used plenty of sound samples, but some of those samples were a little bit jarring when they screeched into an otherwise soft song. “We Don’t Know Harm I” starts out sounding like an Arcade Fire song, “We Don’t Know Harm II” puts the same lyrics into a different arrangement. Both work well.
The overlapping vocals make this group stand out, they definitely excel there. The album as a whole is great, and this is coming from a reviewer who hates ambient tracks and any jarring noise. On top of fantastic arrangements, beautiful vocals, and a good sound, I like Bear Colony’s marketing strategy on social media. When promoting an upcoming event, they posted “If you had chicken pox, the shingles virus is already inside of you… so come to the ‘Soft Eyes’ release show.” While you’re at it, since you may already have the shingles virus anyway, give Soft Eyes a listen.
MP3: Bear Colony “Bad Blood”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl