Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Boy & Bear - Album Review, 'Harlequin Dream'

Boy & Bear, 'Three Headed Woman'

Info: Boy & Bear are an Australian folk-rock quintet comprising of David Hosking (guitars & vocal), Killian Gavin (vocal & guitar), Timothy (drums & vocal), Jonathan Hart (vocal, banjo, mandolin & keyboards) and David Synes (bass). The Syndey band were formed in 2009 and Harlequin Dream is their second album, following on from 2011's platinum and critically-acclaimed Moonfire. The new release went to No.1 in the Australian charts upon domestic release in 2013 and was released last Friday here in Ireland ahead of the band's upcoming performance in Whelans on the 9th of November. 

Back in August when I reviewed their new single 'Three Headed Woman' (above) I also included a SoundCloud clip of the track, 'Southern Sun', but hadn't heard any of the rest of the album apart from those two. After listening to the rest of it, some of the comparisons I made back then seem off the mark, such as The Shins and Band of Horses, although there is still a similarity (mostly in the singing) to The War on Drugs. I also mentioned that I'd really enjoyed their debut album Moonfire when it first cam out having seen it recommended in either Q or The Sunday Times, I can't recall exactly, but I definitely prefer this latest offering for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the music seems to reflect a group of musicians who have become completely assured of themselves and are closing in on (hopefully not too soon!) the peak of their song-writing. From start to finish the album feels effortless, almost as if the band members are in a drug-induced trance, take 'Bridges' as a perfect example, the music is just flowing out of them, the vocals and the wonderful blues guitar playing are quite hypnotising.

Boy & Bear, 'Bridges', Live @ Bing Lounge, Portland, Oregon.

For me Harlequin Dream ticks many of the boxes you'd want from a good album, accomplished compositions (see the strings & saxophone solo on the title track), lyrical depth, for example the album's opening lines;

'In all you've seen
Was it that came down on me that night
A conjuring, I held on to that moment and lie
Just to make it alive

I stood out there in the covering
In the baskings of a holy night
Oh I was lucid and conscious
And hovering like a firefly

My mind stretched out on the canopy
It put its arms out slow
I heard the whispers of silence
Floating down from the radio'

Finally, there's the consistency throughout, where some 'successful' albums have 3-4 good tracks and the rest are okay (some of the bands I mentioned earlier spring to mind) you're not trying to like the album as a whole here, it comes easily. It's always a good sign for me when the singles aren't necessarily my favourite tracks on an album, along with 'Bridges' I also loved 'A Moment's Grace'. Harlequin Dream definitely surprised me in it's entirety in comparison to what I expected, and it's easy to see why Boy & Bear have such a massive following in their home country.

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