2012 is arguably the year of the excellent synth-pop record. Releases from Grimes, Chromatics, Chairlift and Tanlines all have made great use of synths and dance-heavy electro beats to suck you in and leave you addicted. Now Bear In Heaven look to continue that trend with their third record I Love You, It’s Cool. This follows their 2009 breakthrough album Beast Rest Forth Mouth, a record that defied easy description with its psychedelic twists and towering pop choruses. The singles “Lovesick Teenagers” and “Wholehearted Mess” were two of the most addictive songs of that year, and proved they could also work on multiple levels thanks to Beast Rest Forth Mouth Remixed that came out a year later. Bear In Heaven must have learned quite a bit from those experiences the last few years, because they seem to have a firmer grasp on where they’re headed with this new album. The overall format is locked down pretty firmly, that being huge, synth-infused pop melodies made even denser than ever before thanks to some heavy use of sequencers. “Lovesick Teenagers” seems to be their point of inspiration when composing these songs, and it’s a smart choice to have made, allowing the record to sink into a groove that positively shimmers as it keeps your toe tapping. “Idle Heart” is an icily beautiful way to start things off, the synths washing over you like waves, the peace only disturbed by a distorted beat that pushes its way as far to the forefront of the mix as possible. There’s so much going on in first single “The Reflection of You” it even threatens to overwhelm Jon Philpot’s vocals, but it’s balanced just precariously enough to prevent that from happening. That actually happens multiple times on the album, and it’s almost enough to turn great songs like “Sinful Nature” and “World of Freakout” into something less impressive and catchy. Perhaps it’s all in how you listen to I Love You, It’s Cool that determines what truly catches your ear. Headphones seem to invoke fears of claustrophobia, every single available space filled with one element or another. Listening in the car is a little better, but a large theatre or outdoor concert venue is probably ideal for the breadth of these intense melodies. Huge as these songs may be, not to mention remarkably danceable, Bear In Heaven somehow fail to fully capitalize on the things they do right. With all the electronica elements splattered across every inch of this record (again making it ripe for remixing), the band seems unable to fully flesh out their ideas in 3-4 minute spurts. On most tracks they seem poised to build tension and then have an explosive release, but almost every time they do it too early, too late or not at all. Sometimes they just settle into an ambient section that fails to add to a song, leaving it to stagnate instead on the thought it could go on forever without interruption. The pieces of the puzzle are there, just not necessarily put together in the right order every time. Tracks like “Cool Light” and “Warm Water” wind up more as boring filler than engaging moments that keep the record going. That’s unfortunate, because at 10 tracks and 44 minutes, I Love You, It’s Cool turns out to be only a little more than half of a great album. Then again, maybe when they perform it live at a packed venue with people that came to dance, it’s a great record from beginning to end.
Bear In Heaven – The Reflection of You