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Bear Lake - Places on the Side

  by Mark Rowland

published: 6 / 4 / 2009



Bear Lake - Places on the Side
Label: Bear Lake Music
Format: CD

intro

Self-conscious, but versatile Americana on promising second album from critically praised Detroit-based group, Bear Lake


Detroit’s Bear Lake have built up a fair buzz in their home town, and are hoping to move beyond that with their second album, with their first tour of the American Midwest later this year. Their music has been compared to such different bands as Radiohead, the Flaming Lips, the Shins and Snow Patrol. They actually sound more like Band of Horses, with their shimmering atmospherics, quiet loud dynamics and understated vocals with an occasional country flavour. The opener and title track does, however, start with a guitar riff that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Snow Patrol song, and it’s the band’s delivery that saves it from sounding stylistically identical. ‘Fading Lines’ is perhaps more successful, the band flitting between tense acoustic strumming and minor and major melodies. ‘The Best One’, with its fuzzy organ and effected beat, visits Spoon territory. It’s a welcome change of pace, if a little derivative. At times, it does sound like Bear Lake have been a bit self-conscious in ensuring that their album is a diverse one, at times lifting styles wholesale from bands that they clearly admire. ‘Smile’ for example, seems to frame itself as a Shins song, with a chorus that would feel right at home on the Flaming Lips’ 'The Soft Bulletin'. It’s a good song, and would perhaps have benefitted from a less laboured approach. ‘One Beats Three’, which directly follows ‘Smile’, goes for a vaguely Mazzy Star meets Guided By Voices (in their quieter moments) sound, which works quite well. ‘Where Do We Go?’ has a piano part and drum beat that wouldn’t feel out of place on Radiohead’s latest one, before adding a vocal and guitar line that turns it into mainstream American rock. ‘You’re Only Waiting’ is a nice acoustic strum along, which is wrapped in a U2 like electric pomp which feels unnecessary. Most of the songs on ‘Places on the Side’ are good, in fact, but the occasionally overblown production doesn’t always suit them. Bear Lake definitely have something, but they need to take a less complicated approach to their music, and let their songs speak for themselves.



Track Listing:-
1 Places On the Side
2 Fading Lines
3 The Best One
4 Smile
5 One Beats Three
6 Raid Out
7 Where Do We Go?
8 You're Only Waiting
9 I Quit
10 Bones and Marrow
11 Just Because You Can



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