Bear’s Den Hits A Musical Pivot With Atmospheric ‘So That You Might Hear Me’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Bear’s Den began as a three-person folk-rock band in the vein of Mumford and Sons. Their debut, Islands, featured lots of banjo and acoustic guitar. Their follow-up, 2016’s Red Earth & Pouring Rain, which had the band now a duo (after the departure of banjoist Joey Haynes), pushed them in more of a rock direction, with a very War on Drugs sound. Their third album, So That You Might Hear Me, represents another pivot, this time taking the band in more of an atmospheric, 1980s-influenced direction, that results in pretty songs, but also at-times mopey energy.

Bear’s Den revolves around singer/guitarist Andrew Davie’s voice, which sounds like it’s coming out of an English countryside, what with his accent and unpretentious delivery. You can practically hear sheep pastorally lounging in his vocals. His voice also has an impressive versatility that’s allowed Bear’s Den to successfully experiment with different styles.

While Red Earth & Pouring Rain was written in just three weeks, So That You Might Hear Me was recorded in their own studio, allowing Davie and partner Kevin Jones to experiment more. Instead of falling into old songwriting patterns, they could push themselves.

Like many artists with lots of studio time, they found themselves experimenting with tools like synthesizers and pianos. The beauty and possibilities of those instruments often lead to slower tempos, as songs become expansive and the drums begin to feel like a constraining yoke, rather than a life-giving heartbeat. Such as the case on some ofSo That You Might Hear Me‘s tracks.

A typical song is one like “Fuel on the Fire,” which begins with a synth riff that gradually allows in an electronic drumbeat. Some electric guitar eventually fleshes out the song, but at its core, it’s synth-pop. “Crow” is piano driven, expanded with some horns. It’s also sad and low-key, both musically and lyrically: “My beautiful crow / All those black feathers / Perched deep in my soul / Won’t let me let you go,” and closes with a swell of synth sounds before disappearing into a single, final piano chord.

But not all of the album is introspective and slower-tempo. There are some upbeat, rock-oriented songs, a la Red Earth. “Hiding Bottles,” with its big guitar riff and propulsive drums, is reminiscent of Bastille’s “Pompeii” in the size of the song. It seems tailor-made for big arenas, although Davie gives the vocals a sadness that lend a nice incongruousness to the relentless happy bombast of the music.

So That You Might Hear Me is a band continuing to evolve, which is a good thing. However, it’s interesting to consider what their first three albums would sound like remixed, with the folk, rock, and synth evenly distributed on each release, rather than bunched.So That You Might Hear Me would especially benefit from some other kinds of songs, just to inject a little more pep into what is, for the most part, a downbeat album. Luckily, to paraphrase Tolstoy, every song can be sad in its own way.

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