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we.change by Bears of Winter

October 27, 2010

Neil’s Album Review

Years ago I went to see Nine Inch Nails play a show in Cincinnati. This was shortly after Pretty Hate Machine was released and while the album itself was very electronic, the live show was all about the guitar. The songs were played much, much heavier than the album versions and I believe this was the beginning of what we all now know as the signature sound of Nine Inch Nails.

And I remember, even years earlier, trying to reconcile that Ministry; the band that gave me “Work for Love,” was now screaming about “Stigmata.”

Finally, I am still waiting for OMD to do another Dazzle Ships.

My point is this: bands change. It’s inevitable. It’s expected. And some times – the best of times – we listen with anticipation as our favorite band takes amazing new musical ground. Other times we end up mourning that certain sound that we’ll never hear again. But bands change. Great music isn’t static. Great music is a journey.

Bears of Winter takes me on such a journey through transformation, change and revelation with the new release we.change.

This album has great flow. In this world of 99¢ song downloads, it can sometimes seem that the album is dead. But with we.change, it’s thriving. There’s something indescribable in the way an album can take you from place to place, emotion to emotion, but this album does it very well. It begins with the determined and directive “Make” and carries this tone through standouts like “Sleeper” and “Funkk.” It then turns quiet and introspective with “Black Feather” (my favorite track). Finally, the album turns another corner into a sense of expectation (and maybe even hope?) with tracks like “Trophy” and “Yale Fence.”

The songs are very straightforward – presented with a lot less of the effects work, processing and ambient-industrial textures of previous albums. But that in no way means they’re lacking. They’re simpler. Cleaner. Honest. They stand on their own with a surprisingly natural grace and humanity.

I came into this album saying to myself, “Oh this is different.” But as Andrew Morse’s honest and effortless vocal puts it in the song “Make,” it’s different “just enough to be the same.” This is a new sound from Bears of Winter and at the same time this is still the same Bears of Winter.

we.change is a truly great next step for a band that should be one everyone’s must-play list.

Still with no pithy catchphrase,
Neil

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