Anyone who was familiar with Bear in Heaven’s first album Red Bloom of the Boom (QRO review) before their breakthrough second album Beast Rest Forth Mouth (QRO review) was released must have been surprised upon hearing the latter because of how much their sound had tightened. Every song’s sonic and emotional palettes were different from those of the rest of the tracks despite instrumentation that consisted almost exclusively of drums, bass, synth, and Jon Philpot’s vocals. They had learned to say much more with less.
On their new album I Love You, It’s Cool they say less with more, which isn’t to say that they having nothing to say. It’s just that on Beast Rest Forth Mouth it felt as if Bear in Heaven was playing without boundaries, but now it feels as if everything is safely within the confines of synth pop. Spaces are always filled with layered synths. There is none of the shifting minimalism of "Beast in Peace" or the apocalyptic menace of "Deafening Love".
There is nothing wrong with synth pop. In fact, the best moments on I Love You, It’s Cool occur when they fully embrace it. The poppier songs on Beast Rest Forth Mouth still had an icy detachment about them. Standout tracks "Sinful Nature" and "Reflection of You" from I Love You, It’s Cool do have a dark, subversive undercurrent to them, but overall they work because they are slick, earnestly lustful, and danceable. These songs stand out as similar but superior to the rest of the album. While the remaining tracks are still mostly quite good, you start to get the impression as you progress through the album that Bear in Heaven will not be taking any of the unexpected sharp turns that listeners have come to expect.
Ultimately, standing still would have had worse results. Thankfully, they didn’t fall into the trap of becoming afraid to change after tasting success. The best work here is material that previous incarnations of Bear in Heaven didn’t seem capable of, so in that sense it’s a step forward. Perhaps it is a step towards saying more with more.
MP3 Stream: "Sinful Nature"