SOUND: FOLK ROCK
This is a highly meditative, introspective album, designed to relax listeners with gentle tunes adorned with their distinctive lightly-plucked banjo. Each song is a personal story, from losing a loved one to battling one's demons. Each story is told with such sincerity and exquisiteness, leaving listeners transfixed for the duration of the journey.
Leading the pack is the heartbreaking 'Above The Clouds of Pompeii'; this song epitomises everything that is so compelling about this album. Its stunning effectiveness plays upon our mortality, replaying memories of friends and family taken too soon. The simplicity of a strummed acoustic guitar is layered with the buoyant vocals of Andrew Davies, bringing to life powerfully constructed lyrics, culminating in the devastating chorus: "Just don't cry, hold your head up high, she would want you to."
There's plenty of other gems littered across 'Islands' - opening track 'Agape' sets the scene magnificently, with a foot-tapping tune and upwardly-spiralling harmonies from the trio. The sombre 'Isaac' wreaks emotional havoc like unerring waves upon a beach; momentary gentle lulls offering reprise between the fierce pummelling. 'Think of England' is an anguished tale of a relationship whose flame has died, and offers one of the most acoustically complex songs of the album.
Each song is a personal story, from losing a loved one to battling one's demons.
Even as the LP draws to a conclusion, the material manages to remain strong. Penultimate track 'Elysium' is a heavenly track, light and meandering with Davies' compassionate vocals leading us to an ending adorned with horns. Closer 'Bad Blood' dwells upon the past, with a particularly severe metaphor offering a forlorn finale to the album.
Despite its intent, the music of Bear's Den is so life-affirming; listening to 'Islands' is a little like lying in a field of grass while being bathed in the gentle sun of spring. You seriously can't help but feel a warm glow after taking it in. Bear's Den are one of those timeless indie bands set to carve out a career with a cult following worldwide - and if their debut album is anything to go by, the music of Bear's Den will continue to simultaneously devastate and exhilarate their fans.
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