When it comes to independent rock it is very hard to stand out, mostly because at this point it is hard to come up with something new or have some sort of reinvention to seem fresh. However, this is not the case for Minus the Bear. This may be due to the fact that it has been around five years since we received our last album from the band. No matter the reason, Minus the Bear have never really had trouble encapsulating what it is to be a modern day indie rock band and that is the case with their latest album “Voids.”
Based in Seattle, Minus the Bear have been around for the better part of 16 years now. The best way to the describe their sound is a blend of alternative rock sounds with electronic elements thrown in for just the right mix. No matter how you chalk it up, Minus the Bear have had no problem coming up with a sound that they call their own. This is what led their first album in 2002, “Highly Refined Pirates,” that they would end up on people’s radar.
It really was not until the release of their third studio album “Planet of Ice” in 2007 that they would start charting in the Billboard 200. Since then the band has been watched by many and they have put out an additional two albums in five years. Since 2012 we really have not heard much from the band, but all that has changed with the release of “VOIDS.”
“VOIDS” is a 10-track record that clocks in at around 47 minutes in length. From front to back, the album reflects how the music flows, which is seamless for the most part. Nothing feels odd or out of place, which is what you want with a record like this. Because it has been a little while since Minus the Bear have released any music, they have changed up the music a little. That is something fans should know going in from the start. There are moments when this album really starts to flow and has fun and then there are moments where it has no punch whatsoever.
Musically, the album sets the tone well within the first ten seconds with the lead track “Last Kiss.” It has the perfect amount of classic guitar riffs that I expect from the band, but are mixed in really well with the hypnotic and mesmerizing synthetic elements of the track. This in addition to tracks like “Silver” and “Call the Cops,” which are playful in how they experiment with sound while at the same time cut through all the general noise, the album tends to kick up at times.
The album really starts to lose whatever edge it has near the end of the record, where tracks like “Tame Beast” and “Erase” really struggle to sound different in any sense. Other than that there are a lot of fun elements in the songs and it is refreshing to see more focus on the guitar to drive a song rather than anything else.
Lyrically, the songs are a lot less intimate than then band used to write. It is not necessarily a bad thing, it just gets this really superficial feeling with it, especially when you listen to tracks like “Robotic Heart” and “Give and Take.”
Emotionally, the lyrics just are not as developed as some of the music and that is not as bad as it might sound. It is just hard to connect with the lyrics, but easy enough to connect with the music. When listening to tracks like “Lighthouse” or “What About the Boat?” you get this feeling of bliss and lose yourself in the harmonies for a minute or two, which keeps you coming back time and time again.
Should you listen to it?: Yes.
To call Minus the Bear a math band would be unfair to them. They just happen to be a band that knows how to write an album that knows perfectly well what it is. This album knows its own limitations and does not try to hide that and certainly the band has become very comfortable in writing songs themselves.
“VOIDS” is an album that not only deserves to be cherished for its own creativity, but other genres of music should look at this album and wish they could do half the things that this album can.
Collegian reporter Alec Erickson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CTV_Ace.