Austin's Golden Bear have been busy since the last time I checked in. I saw a show of theirs last fall (a must see live band by the way) around the release of their self-titled debut, which garnered praise from all over their hometown and even managed to snag them an "Artist of the Day" spot over at Spin.com. That album was released in October of last year, and now, low and behold, Golden Bear is already back with their follow-up, To The Farthest Star.
I am admittedly late with this review, as the album came out back in April, but to be honest, I didn't expect them to get back together in such an organized fashion so quickly. Luckily they come back strong and build upon the success of that first release.
Recorded in front man Chris Gregory's house, To The Farthest Star is nothing more than a solid indie pop album upon first listen. It's simple, melodic, straightforward and often feels very sweet (thanks to the slightly faltering voice of Gregory). It is with each successive rotation however, that you begin to actually find what makes Golden Bear so enjoyable, picking apart the layers of stomping percussion and the subtle nuances left by Matt Gardiner's keyboard ("Darkness Sets In"). Gregory's voice is like an unsure Wayne Coyne on "The Gospel Truth" and they channel the sweet quirkiness of Weezer on "Glitter Girls." It seems as if when they sit down to write, they lay down a basic melody and slowly build up around it, be it a beat, riff or jangle of the keys.
More than anything, Golden Bear seem to be reaching out for that anthemic indie album, and they are getting closer. The vastness displayed in the highlights "Tonight's The Night" and especially in the opener "Galaxy Queen" showcase the tendency to open up the brass and choral sections (see also "To The Farthest Star"). If you're a fan of The Flaming Lips, The Polyphonic Spree, Weezer, and to a certain extent Arcade Fire, you're sure to find some enjoyment out of these tracks. It may not be perfect upon first listen, but it will leave you with the feeling that Golden Bear should be looked after for the next few years.