Bear in Heaven Descends to Earth on Tedious Latest

Bear in Heaven -- I Love You, It's Cool -- Hometapes -- 2 1/2 STARS

Brooklyn-based indie rock band Bear in Heaven recently came off of a world tour to promote its highly acclaimed 2009 album, “Beast Rest Forth Mouth.” The album and tour featured the band at its peak, and Bear in Heaven’s latest album, “I Love You, It’s Cool,” is an attempt to build on its success. “It felt good when people would dance. We tried to turn that into a record,” guitarist Adam Wills recently commented in a press release. “But there’s still an absolute need to take the pop song and ruin it.” With “I Love You, It’s Cool,” Bear in Heaven ultimately achieves these two goals, but it fulfills the latter in a different way than Wills intended. The album’s icy synths and driving electronic beats make the record danceable at times. However, its overwhelming repetition and lack of musical innovation reveal that the band’s attempt at ruining the pop song results in, save for a few standout tracks, a tedious ruin.

“I Love You, It’s Cool” is significantly less poppy than previous releases like “Beast Rest Forth Mouth.” Whereas “Lovesick Teenagers,” a prominent single on that album, featured clever lyrics—“Lovesick teenagers don’t ever die / They will live forever / Even when you’re too old”—and crisp melodic lines, this album concentrates much more on contemplative, mellow soundscapes. Overall, the band’s songs feel like semi-conscious attempts made after waking up from amorphous nightmares. Single words, like “freakout,” are repeated over and over in a monotone, and layers of rhythmic synthesizers and guitars fade in and out with little room for the songs to breathe.

“World of Freakout” and “Space Remains” both display the stagnancy that characterizes the album. The ambient and droning synths seem to simply cover up for a lack of catchy melodies. In “Space Remains,” the steady energy of the drums is watered down by the incessant elongation of each syllable in the chorus. Moreover, embarrassingly angsty lyrics, although barely heard above the wash, do nothing to improve the blandness; on “Sweetness and Sickness,” frontman Jon Philpot mutters, “The dreams / sad beloved trains / Sadness / Never feels the same.”

However, Bear in Heaven shows glimpses of its former intelligent songwriting and arrangement, as shown by “The Reflection of You,” recently released as a single. With its shimmering keyboard riff, steady 16th-note drum pulse, and clear melody, the song is decidedly more upbeat than much of the rest of the album. The song builds synth upon synth up to the song’s climax, in which Philpot sings softly, “dance with me.” This tension and release demonstrates a movement that many other songs sorely lack. The atmosphere of hazy allure is well reflected in lines Philpot so relishingly murmurs. “My lips won’t kiss anything amazing / My lips won’t respond / I wanna know exactly what you are.” More than a half-hearted diatribe against one’s own romantic fate, “Reflection of You” is particularly soothing, especially when sandwiched between the darker and more aggressive songs “Idle Heart” and “Noon Moon.”

Another standout from the disturbingly homogenous crowd is the fourth track, “Sinful Nature.” Moderated by guitar notes that soar in ebbing and flowing waves, Sinful Nature advocates for spiritual and bodily liberation. “Let’s get loaded / And make some strange things come through.”

However, these two songs are the exception. With most songs barely distinguishable from one another, “I Love You, It’s Cool” flows easily from song to song but altogether makes for a tedious and forgettable listen. The album provides a set of intoxicating atmospheres, but consists of far too many fillers that lack substance. Hopefully, this album will simply be filler between “Beast Rest Forth Mouth” and a more innovative, ambitious work in the future.