At the start of 2016, Seattle’s twiddle pop heroes Minus The Bear came over to the UK to finish off the 10 year celebrations of their seminal album ‘Menos El Oso‘. Although this was their second album, it was the album that propelled them into cult status and inspired a bunch of other young bands to make the same twiddly, techy indie-rock sound.
I was in attendance for the Manchester show of this tour and I remember them returning to the stage after a perfect run through of the record and playing us a brand new track. It was a perfect pop hit. It seemed to me that re-touring Menos El Oso had encouraged the band to re-visit some old sounds and re-vamp them. So, going into their 6th album ‘VOIDS‘, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to get a nostalgic return to the sounds that made us fall in love with this band in the first place?
I would say that VOIDS has a little something for everybody. Some of you might think that that’s a proper cop out journo remark, but I honestly think that whatever record you discovered this band on, you will definitely have something to take away from VOIDS.
First off, it has all the super slick guitar trickery of the first three records, with tracks like ‘Last Kiss‘ and ‘Robotic Heart‘ kicking out these soaring, super strength guitar riffs topped off with these slinky grooves that you really sink into. And for those into the more polished, hook-heavy Minus The Bear sound we got on their last couple of records, we have huge hits like ‘Tame Beasts‘ and ‘Invisible‘ which are impossibly catchy. Actually, Invisible is the perfect pop song that I mentioned earlier. I’m so happy it made it on the record, I think it might be my favorite tune of theirs to date. Seriously, that chorus does uncontrollable things to my whole body.
Of course, we have some pure gorgeous power ballads in there too. Well, musically gorgeous; lyrically, this record is actually quite downbeat with themes of self-doubt and relationship issues being at the forefront. ‘What About The Boat?‘ acts as the centerpiece here, with this delicious guitar riff in the chorus as lead vocalist Jake gently sprinkles the devastating line “let me forget your name” over the top. ‘Call The Cops‘ and ‘Erase‘ also mix silky, dreamy melodies with thought provoking yet melancholic lyrics, which are equal amounts of powerful and beautiful.
You can tell that the writing of this record was very much a collaborative effort, with each song bringing something a little different to the fold from the last. It’s nice to hear lead vocals being switched up between guitarist Jake and keyboardist Alex throughout and to hear the different tonalities and personalities of their voices.
Ultimately, the songwriting and musicianship here is just unprecedented. I honestly think die hard fans are going to re-think their favorite songs when they hear the belters they have on this thing. There are many layers to this record and I’m still unraveling them. But, I do know that at the core of this record lies Minus The Bear’s undeniable chemistry as a unit which strives to make VOIDS their most encompassing and engaging record.