Writing on the Wall

Bear’s Den is another in the category of great-bands-you’ve-never-heard-of. If I remember correctly, I found their song “Dew On The Vine” from an internet radio station. A fantastic find, and one I was very excited to more thoroughly dig through.

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This is a band that has toured with groups like Mumford & Sons and Daughter, as well as lesser-known but equally awesome bands like Nathaniel Rateliff, Ben Howard, and The Staves (if you love beautiful female harmonies please check them out – at the rate this project is going I won’t get to them till I’m in my 50’s, so I have to plug them now). That should give you an idea about the genre, but if not, let me break it down for you: Bear’s Den, according to Wikipedia, is described as folk-rock and alt-rock. They are definitely more in the folk-rock category according to their instrumentation, with a certain ambient style brought on by the vocal effects used by the singer, with a little Americana thrown in for good measure. I would describe them as Mumford & Sons crossed with Iron and Wine.

Here’s a video to give you an idea of their sound:

This music is awesome. It’s soothing and well-written, with a certain atmosphere building quality that is typically absent in more poppy tunes.

When I listen to Bear’s Den, I think of road trips through the Cascade mountains and foggy roads that cut through a forest. It may be possible I’m a little homesick for the pacific northwest as I write this, but that’s honestly what I picture. I keep meaning to make a playlist based on an image like this one:

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This music makes me feel at home, calm, and relaxed.

Bear’s Den is a great band to listen to in calm moments, maybe curled up with a cup of tea and a good book or on a rainy day. That said, I would absolutely still go see them live, and I’m happy to listen to them anytime they pop up wherever I listen to music.

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So, all that aside, what are their top tracks? In no particular order, I recommend:

“Dew On The Vine”

“Magdalene”

“Above The Clouds Of Pompeii”

“Isaac”

“Sophie”

“Broken Parable”

“New Jerusalem”

“Red Earth & Pouring Rain”

Those are just a few great songs, and if you like any of them please go check out more music by this band. I really like it and they got me on a huge kick of listening to other great bands like the ones I mentioned above, as well as groups like Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, and Peter Bradley Adams.

In fact, here are more recommendations: if you like this band, check out Admiral Fallow or Bootstraps who I will hopefully be getting to sooner rather than later.

All I can say is go listen to this band. See if you like what they have and explore something new!

Happy listening

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Choice Kingdom

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this band. I have been looking forward to this post for a while.

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alt-J released their first record in 2012 and I seriously regret that I didn’t become aware of them until about a year ago. The odd name comes from the band’s symbol, the greek letter for Delta: Δ, which can be typed with the keyboard shortcut of alt+J on a Mac computer. This symbol is an indicator of change or difference in scientific equations, which I think it is an apt description of the band.

It was once mentioned to me that no other band sounds like alt-J and I have to agree, they are very unique. This is most evident in the style of their vocals and the way they use common instrumentation that has been arranged in a different and strangely hypnotic way. The almost ethereal sounds on their tracks are really something else. The internet tells me their genres are Indie rock, Indie pop, Art rock, and Folktronica. All of that is accurate, and I had no idea how much I needed art rock and folktronica in my life until now.

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There are a few standout tracks on both of their albums, some of which you may have heard if you listen to alternative radio stations. The ones I can think of that you might know include “Breezeblocks” and “Left Hand Free” If you like intense and well-made music videos, you should check out this awesome video for “Breezeblocks”

I can be found listening to this music at any time, and while listening to individual tracks is fine and good, it really hits home when you listen to an entire album at once. Their albums as an entire piece are impressive and flow really well. I especially like their second album, This Is All Yours, which ends with a bonus track I consider to be my favorite, “Lovely Day.” It is just trippy enough that I tend to close my eyes to tune out of other sensory input to focus on the music just that little bit more.

On that note, I will say that some of their stuff that doesn’t get radio play is a bit more psychedelic than most popular music and many people will likely find it difficult to listen to. However, for me, it hits just right. The way they layer and build sounds together is truly brilliant. If you want a good example of that, check out the track “Intro” from This Is All Yours.

These guys are true artists. They know how and when to add, subtract, or intensify the textures they incorporate into their music. It’s subtle and almost seamless the way they weave together the many small strands of sound into a cohesive unit. Rarely do they include a sound that overpowers another without purpose. Similarly, the sounds they include in each track have a purpose and reason. There are many artists, good artists whom I love, who never quite achieve that level of cohesiveness whether it be due to long or loud solos or vocals that seem to command sole attention. Sometimes those things are exactly what you want, but I always find it fascinating when the instruments don’t immediately identify themselves to me and I have to think a little more about what exactly I am hearing.

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One thing that especially impressed me while I was perusing their music was the quality of their live tracks. I have heard many bands who sound fantastic on a recording but are less than stellar live. Based on the styles alt-J has, I would have expected them to have a difficult time recreating their music in a live setting. I must emphatically say this is not the case. Every song I heard from the live EP they released was fantastic; they stayed true to the songs as they are meant to be and still imbibed the feeling and necessary energy required for a live show. I would jump at the chance to go see them perform.

Overall I am so very pleased to have found alt-J, they are one of my absolute favorite bands to come out of this decade. They have a new album coming out in this summer, and I for one am looking forward to seeing what they come up with for it.