Review: Eliza and the Bear self-titled album leaves us asking: ‘where have you been?’

Eliza And The Bear – Self Titled – 08/04/16

8.5 / 10

eliza and the bear

London boys: James, Callie, Martin, Chris and Paul make up the feel-good band of 2016, Eliza and the Bear. They’ve found themselves on the receiving end of a huge rise in popularity with a significant amount of airplay on Radio 1 and many other notable media outlets.

They release their debut, self-titled album on April 8th and we are fortunate enough to have been given a copy for our listening pleasure.

The album’s opening track ‘Friends’ begins with a breath of orchestral flair that feels like the opening of a Spielberg film, bringing a sense new beginnings for the lads from the ‘Big Smoke’. It’s somehow immediately familiar and forges a connection with the line ‘I’ve got friends, I’ve got family here’. I can guarantee this will be belted out by thousands during the summer festival season this year. Memorable and catchy. Well played, gents.

Second track ‘Where have you been’ keeps our spirits and expectations high with its bouncy vibe that’s driven by a rousing horn section. If I close my eyes I’ve got a cider in hand, the sun is shining and I’m having a dance on a field somewhere in the English countryside. We’re two songs in and the tone is set and it’s been done in an incredibly mature manner. ‘Make it on my own’ has an Imagine Dragons feel, with James’ vocals commanding your attention along with the song’s message of doing it by yourself and it’s attempt to instil confidence in the listener.
The fourth track, and a personal favourite, ‘Lion’s Heart’ puts the biggest smile on my face. Much like the proverbial lion, it has guts. This is quality songwriting, the dynamics of the song brings it to a fantastic climax with their use of the horn section and melodies.
We change gears for ‘Cruel’. A ballad that’s timid at first and really accentuates Kellegher’s vocal abilities bolstered with subtle harmonies during the chorus that builds into the B section of the song that is rousing and endlessly stirring. Another song that begs for a huge audience singing it in unison. It seems like they’ve really had the big stages in mind when writing.

‘Light it up’ does have a very similar feel to ‘Friends’ and ‘Where have you been’. But there’s nothing wrong with having a recognisable sound. It just puts into question whether the band is a one trick pony. A lot of repetition lyrically hammers home the song’s message ensuring we always remember the hook. One thing to say is each track has had serious mainstream appeal.

We continue the feel good event with ‘It gets cold’ and instantly memorable tune that explodes with joy and nostalgia. With the breakdown of the song ready made for crowd participation and I’d be more than happy to oblige.

We hit the middle point of the album with a darker feeling tune in ‘Oxygen’. The rhythmic work from Paul Jackson makes this tune tense with cracking hi-hat work and tempestuous fills. Definitely a song for the gym playlist, evoking rebellious emotion.
Get your dancing shoes back on for ‘Upon the North’ as we welcome back the overall vibe of the album. Callie Noakes’ piano carries the track through a blissful journey of ‘oos’ and crescendos.

‘Brother’s Boat’, at this point an Eliza and the Bear classic as it was initially released in March of 2014. Pulsating horns drive the track once more (I don’t think I’d be out of turn for saying they may have over-used this device at this point). ‘I’m on your side’ brings us a breather with some rhythmic finger picked guitar laced with Kellegher’s punchy vocals that move into an explosion of sonic energy in an incredibly slick manner. An orchestral breakdown sets the song apart from the album and takes the record a step higher. I feel that an element of staleness had begun to rear it’s ugly head as a number of the tracks were a little too interchangeable and definitely lacked something that I couldn’t put my finger on. The song has a brief intermission, for some reason (something I’ve never really appreciated eg. Ed Sheeran – ‘Give me love’). This second half is a lovely stripped back song that could have been a track in its own right.

Coming to the end of the album another tune that has been on the EATB setlist for a couple of years in ‘Talk’. A refined Indie anthem that, in my eyes, is a ready-made classic. There’s not a lot more to say about the song that it doesn’t say for itself. Go and listen to it.

‘I hope you know’, ‘Natives’ and ‘Thief’ guide us to the back end of the album as a perfect trio of tunes. Each, unfortunately merging into one. The distinction between the songs at this point is hard to explain. This takes nothing away from the songwriting or the songs themselves, it’s just that none of the three are standouts and almost feel like they could have been left off for a deluxe version of the record somewhere down the line.
It has to be noted that, there is nothing wrong with consistency in sound. This album is fantastic and should be exactly what you plan to fill your summer with.

Eliza and the Bear can be proud of an album that feels like it comes from veterans of the game.

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