SUNBEARS! seem to have successfully conquered the second album syndrome with sophomore endeavour Future Sounds. The album hums with psychedelic vibrancy and a sound that feels nicely distinct from the bands previous album. 2011’s You Will Live Forever laid the groundwork for the new record which explores what are essentially the big questions in life, as music should. But there is also a notion of carpe diem mindfulness that elevates the tough stuff and is more in keeping with the instrumental tone of the songs.
The sound is given licence to grow from the addition of two new members, Walter Hill on keys and guitar, and Jordan Allen Davis on guitar and drum pad. The original bears! Jonathan Berlin and Jared Chase Bowser still occupy the centre of the songs. Berlin’s vocals are distinctive and yet can take on a semblance to a number of different influences. At times there are elements of indie angst, others it’s a throwback to the origins of psychedelic music in the 60s. Bowser on drums provides the rhythmic backbone of the songs, whilst exploring some complex patterns. Often the crash and ride cymbals are used to work in tandem with white noise heavy synth to launch a song spaceward.
The new additions to the band add a layered effect, with numerous guitars allowing smaller, more intricate parts to add nuance to the arrangements and the drum pad is used subtly to add to the future facing aspects of the album. The whole record seems to be both nostalgic and futuristic, but finds a good balance between the two. Acoustic guitar is often used in conjunction with electric drum sounds or synthesisers, whilst not being overpowered.
Indeed some of the best moments are in the calm between various psych-rock storms, Berlin’s vocals given more room to breath here. SUNBEARS! use these moments to great effect, with build ups and break downs a plenty. The best tracks make use of this contrast of tone and tempo. ‘I’m Feelin’ Low’ starts with an acoustic guitar and builds to a triumphant electric guitar solo and euphoric chorus that feels hugely uplifting whilst crying out the song’s title. ‘A Sad Case of Hypersomnia’ is a down tempo highlight, employing melancholy strings to provide a beautifully wistful song about being more than a bit tired.
Future Sounds is a success and shows promising growth from the Jacksonville troupe. The band confidently display their compositional prowess in their ability to make sounds big and small into something that is both original and wonderful.
Words: Matthew Wright