Over the years, Australia has produced some of the finest exports when it comes to indie rock music: DMA’s, The Last Dinosaurs, The Jungle Giants, Camp Cope – the list could go on forever. Sydney’s very own Boy and Bear are no exception.
The group’s eponymous fifth album may be the first to be released independently but it certainly doesn’t lack the charisma or the quintessential elements that make up the rest of their discography. ‘Strange World’ is an incredibly strong opener that begins with a groovy synth sound which builds before erupting into a layer of catchy guitar melodies, the upbeat sound contrasting with lyrics that create an almost overwhelming sense of sadness.
As well as the recurrent use of a synth machine across the eleven tracks, melancholy lyrics set to a backdrop of upbeat melodies is something else the group haven’t shied away from, with second track ‘State of Flight’ also being built on this technique. The personal approach to songwriting, with Dave Hosking writing about his ongoing fight with a chronic illness (first explored on the group’s previous record, 2019’s Suck on Light), differs quite a lot to things their peers write about – there’s no mentions of physical intimacy or evenings spent in bars, just a series of songs about personal struggles and overcoming them. It sets the group apart from the rest a considerable amount.
Hosking’s unique vocals are the stand out element of the album; there’s no pushing himself to try and sound like someone else and it’s refreshing to hear. He doesn’t under or overestimate his powers as a vocalist either, instead using his voice to further build each track rather than overtaking the instrumental elements of them with tracks like ‘Crossfire’ being the most prominent example of this.
Boy & Bear is an incredibly mature record that portrays stories of issues many will be able to relate to. ‘The Wheel’ explores mental health struggles in such a clever way by using tempo to reflect what living with mental illness is like, starting off quite somberly before building into something more optimistic sounding and eventually taking a nosedive again until it loops into something utterly euphoric. They say it’s best to write what you know and whilst Hosking’s lyrics aren’t the most joy-filled at times, he’s doing just that and it makes for an excellent addition to the group’s discography.
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Boy and Bear’s self-titled new album is out now and can be streamed on your platform of choice.