Golden Bear’s new EP has a unique harmonizing effect between the voice and the rhythm guitar, on the first track anyway… The guitarist seems to have a knack for playing in a chord range the singer’s voice harmonizes well with. This makes me wonder if that’s why they call it, “Pop” music- where the voice is amplified by the harmonizing of the guitar with the voice. The music scholar inside laughs at this, and continues to listen to the album.
The guitarists take some interesting departures at the end of “Night Light’s” bridge- with me almost expecting some sort of tremolo piece; I’d expect to hear a bit of it in an Italian restaurant with live music! The song quickly deconstructs itself from there, and ends nicely.
The opening hook to “All the Stars,” has me wondering where this piece will be going- it reminds me VAGUELY of the rhythm and structuring of a Jets to Brazil ballad, but with three minutes left, breaks that format and now sounds more to be dabbling in Neutral Milk Hotel and The Anniversary’s musical territory. I can’t place the song’s tempo or rhythm as it shifts among a few different time signatures. However, it does blend together quite well. The horn and xylophone layering really makes this song, with the background filled in nicely by the rhythm guitar section. Reminding me of an anthem, we’re met with an emo-filled finish with the horn rounding out the ending of this track.
“Future Blues” starts out by building on a rhythm made popular in the1970’s, then starts adding in soft vocals and keys, laying out a slower, yet slightly snappy pop ballad with a repetitive hook. Deliberately measured vocals accompany the tempo the song is bearing at its different junctures- the musical exploration here is really quite deliberate, as evidenced by how strangely “fresh,” these tunes come across as they hit your ears….With about 2 minutes and 10 seconds left, “Future Blues” explodes into a more frenetic rhythm, yet still stays smooth and coherent. There’s just enough excitement in this song to stimulate your mind a bit, but not make it fall out of your ear. With the way this song ends I feel like I’m supposed to be holding someone’s hand.
“Everest” opens and I’m wondering if these guys listened to any metal guitar growing up. The song quickly segues into a candy-coated vocal section and is met with more fast paced guitar fingering, adding an uplifting feeling to this track, as if the instruments speak to the possibilities in life. The first chorus sounds like a celebration- a celebration of dreams realized and believed, or as they said, “Coming true.” Nice little ditty, this would go well while climbing a hill in your car and cresting a beautiful and scenic vista at the top, all the while hopefully having a nice moment of dreams realized in your own life. The ending of this track is a bit drawn out feeling, leaving me likely to skip the last 45 seconds in the future. Over all though, a well done song.
The last track, “Miracle Mile,” is again borrowing a few bars from songs I’ve heard before. I don’t recall where this one originated, but I’ve definitely heard this rhythm and these notes before. Sometimes pop acts do this to akin a track with a new generation of listeners and the old ones that remember the hook. I personally hate this, and wish for more of an original approach- which this band certainly has. Although with that marginally ironic duality, I’m inclined to listen less over time, favoring more original work. However, this band makes up for it with croony ballads tempered with strong transitions. I’m hopeful future work from them will be more innovative, and keep true to their intentions as artists. To be straight with you, if you like bands like The Stills, Pedro the Lion, and Hot Hot Heat, you’ll probably quite enjoy this. There’s a little bit of all of that and more wrapped up into this under 25 minute package of sonic goodness.
— Omar Amer