Tagging a band as “prolific” when said group of musicians has released just two albums may seem a bit premature, but Golden Bear fits the bill. Coming off the positive reaction to last August’s self-titled debut, the Bear is back with their delightfully light anthemic pop and a second full length, To The Farthest Star. Their patented “Galactic-Forest Rock” has launched through the atmosphere in search of new musical destinations.
Yes, it seems that Golden Bear has left the forest with its sights set on the upper horizons, but they surely haven’t forgotten to have fun along the way. Chris Gregory and his merry band of Austinites revel in the awe-inspiring power of a simple hook and catchy chorus. Keyboards dominate the crackly compositions, which capture a sense of studio improvisation and spontaneity. Andy McAllister thunders away on his drum set like he’s sending an S.O.S. across the vast vacuum of space while Gregory’s vocals yet retain their imperfect gleam.
“Galaxy Queen” is a raucous blast-off, as group harmonies rocket across a cymbal-heavy chorus with snare-snapping synchronicity. Castanets and the blaring of the Royal Forest Orchestra’s horns imbue “Without A Sound” with the sort of grandiosity and jubilation you’d expect from The Flaming Lips. With less than a year passing since the release of their debut, Golden Bear still incorporate many of the trademarks of their humble beginnings, quirky orchestration included.
Thrumming bass and a foreboding keyboard riff filter “Darkness Sets In” through a chilly back-alley funk before a parading sweep of strings herald in the canopy of stars twinkling overhead. This is Golden Bear in peak form, co-opting strings and horns to weave a more engaging listen, with big grins on their faces (I imagine) while they do it. The title-track soothes with simple piano accompaniment while “Devils Painted Red” trembles along a subtle guitar slide and sleigh bells while McAllister’s ever-intuitive drumming rattles out an orgiastic drum concussion.
Golden Bear reminds me of what it must be like to be the most unpretentious band in the world. Never mind that To The Farthest Star is their second album in 10 months. Or that making music that is first and foremost enjoyable and lighthearted seems more important to them than becoming critical darlings for creating the next great movement. And while they’re sights may be set for the stars beyond, their hearts remain firmly planted on solid ground, humble as always, never far from the forest they call home.
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