Thursday 17 October 2013

Boy & Bear - Harlequin Dream

Album review by

Melodic whimsy makers Boy & Bear are back with 'Harlequin Dream', an album more at home played in an intimate tent at the "folkie" than for the packed out ANU crowd the boys skilfully hypnotised in 2012 when touring their wildly successful debut 'Moonfire'. 'Southern Sun' survives the second album test with a gorgeous hook that is beary (sorry) recognisable as an instant radio hit. It's a confident move for an album to begin with the first release, much like a set list order at a live show - it promises a ride it can't always deliver.

A less-is-more ethos follows, with pared-back production becoming an easy listening exercise in restraint, particularly if you're after the grandiose Fleet Foxes-style harmonising of 'Feeding Line'. This is when it pays to remember the quintet began as a folkie solo project for frontman Dave Hosking. This record is quite the "dear diary" affair, complete with musings on fatherhood in 'Old Town Blues' ("I want to be an old man too/ and a role model to my kids") while 'Back Down the Black' deserves "our song" status ("My legs don’t work/my body aches to take the weight thats been thrown down on top of you")

'Three Headed Woman' is a reminder that no one likes hearing about other people's dreams, while 'End of the Line' flirts with Mumford and Sons a little too heavily for me. The title-track takes in some retro saxophone someone must have left lying around the studio near an old Joe Camilleri record. 'Moment of Grace' is an example of the heart artfully thrown in throughout to save it from cutesy folk. Whilst there is no daring point of difference, nor have they relied on their previous Aria-caning template, their efforts are a slow afternoon boil in honest, introspective storytelling. Perhaps it's all the carbs making them sleepy, the band's website citing 7000 bowls of pasta involved in the recording process...

Boy & Bear's website

Catch them live:

Thu 24 Oct ANU BAR, Canberra
Fri 25 Oct Enmore Theatre SOLD OUT, Sydney
Sat 26 Oct Fat as Butter, Newcastle
Sun 27 Oct Enmore Theatre (ALL AGES), Sydney
Fri 1 Nov Wool Exchange, Geelong
Sat 2 Nov  The Forum (SOLD OUT), Melbourne
Sun 3 Nov The Forum, Melbourne
Mon 4 Nov The Forum, Melbourne
Thu 7 Nov Beach Hotel, Byron Bay
Fri 8 Nov Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast
Sat 9 Nov  The Tivoli (SOLD OUT), Brisbane
Fri 15 Nov Waves Nightclub, Wollongong
Sat 16 Nov Wrestpoint Showroom, Hobart
Thu 21 Nov HQ, Adelaide
Fri 22 Nov Metropolis, Fremantle
Sat 23 Nov Astor Theatre SOLD OUT, Perth
Thu 20 Feb King Tuts, Glasgow
Fri 21 Feb The Deaf Institute, Manchester
Sat 22 Feb The Thekla, Bristol
Tue 25 Feb Village Underground, London
Sat 1 Mar  Melkweg Old Hall, Amsterdam
Sun 2 Mar Knust, Hamburg
Mon 3 Mar Lido, Berlin
Wed 5 Mar Rote Fabrik, Zurich
Thu 6 Mar Rockhal Club, Luxemburg
Fri 7 Mar Center Parcs De Eemhof, Zeewolde
Fri 7 Mar Gebäude 9, Cologne
Mon 10 Mar Doornroosje, Nijmegen
Tue 11 Mar Botanique Rotonde, Brussels
Wed 12 Mar Maroquinerie, Paris
Sun 13 Apr Fremantle Park, Fremantle

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