Bear in Heaven‘s newest album continues the trend they set with 2009′s Beast Rest Forth Mouth - the Brooklynites are still making swelling electronic music that demands both space and time for proper enjoyment. I Love You, It’s Cool has a more noticeable psychedelia influence, but it retains the key components of its predecessor’s success, even sounding more mature. But because Bear in Heaven make such stout and sturdy music, the lack of excitability shown on previous albums occasionally leaves this one lacking, fading into the background.
This shortcoming is most obvious on album closer and red-headed step-child “Sweetness & Sickness“. Lacking the electronica elements so central to most of the band’s music, it’s a big reveal of sorts – the surprise ending. But it still shares the general approach to song structure as the rest of Bear in Heaven’s oeuvre, clearly demonstrating their aim towards trance. Singer Jon Philpot utilizes a moaning and musing approach reminiscent of Jim Morrison. The result is a song that’s neither good nor bad, but music that disappears with attention. This is Bear in Heaven at their worst.
Elsewhere on I Love You, It’s Cool, Philpot’s too-hip, fever-dreaming lounge singer style enjoys greater success. Within their natural electronic environment, the band’s output is background music that doesn’t fade away – rather, it’s substantial. It’s something you can get a hold off or sink your teeth into with satisfaction. “Cool Light” coaxes with glittering synths to match the “shimmering moonlight” that Philpot sings of. It sounds zen:
A warm light washes the sky
you’re aware that he’s around
I might be there hovering just a little bit
I might be there shimmering in the moonlight
The song ends by edging toward a club vibe, like more insistent songs such as “The Reflection of You“. Here, with lyrics of dancing and heartbreak and loneliness, Philpot breaks his restrained singing to lose his cool, showing the futility of the album’s title. But like a good dose of heartbreak, “The Reflection of You” is everywhere you turn. The powering, expanding synths take over and Bear in Heaven creates something powerful enough to mold emotions.
Much of the effect stems from the band’s tendency to layer effects over each other. The album often feels less like you’re listening to it and more like it’s emanating out around you. “Sinful Nature” is the best example, keyboards stutter step, riding guitar reverb as the rhythm section grounds the song, holding it together as a coherent piece of music. “Warm Water” is built from pounding drums and a droning keyboard that backlights Philpot’s voice. A 80s synth line completes the picture. Bear in Heaven are terrific at mixing and matching their pieces so each song is multi-faceted. Like a painter with a series of gradations made from different base colors, the band’s end product is always similar, but the variety in the pieces is what makes I Love You, It’s Cool such a wealth of music.
The band is best when those pieces still stand out individually. That happens most often when they show some excitability, like on the glitchy “Space Remains” or opener “Idle Heart“. In those moments Bear in Heaven hit their stride and produce a sound that is uniquely their own. When they falter, they ride an odd middle ground between electronica and chillwave that is too lethargic precisely because it’s too full. At those moments, their music is a wall of sound. But those moments are the minority by far, and when an album’s biggest mistake is being too much of a substantial and coherent work, it should be considered a success.