Album Review: bearhug bill dance shiner

22 March 2012 | 2:12 pm | Sevana Ohandjanian

In fact, the whole record has an air of unpretentious cool to it.

There is a summer-time languidness to Sydney band Bearhug's debut record. Stealing Stephen Malkmus' monotone and My Morning Jacket's penchant for dense guitar solos in opener Over The Hill, the song sets it all up with shimmering melodic pop, transported straight from the '90s and instantly screaming single. Singer Ryan Phelan's voice grows from the baritone into a sweet falsetto on tunes like Shiner and the immediately catchy Angeline, the latter a chill ode to the lady in question. There are brief forays into post-rock guitar shredding on the breakdown to When I Shake, a song that seems to transform within itself constantly in the space of five minutes, moving from unassuming pop into intense guitar solos, then back to plaintive simplicity.

In fact, the whole record has an air of unpretentious cool to it. The same vibe that '90s slacker bands are renowned for permeates from the half-desperate, half-stand-offish repeated lyrics on Cinema West of “I just want to sleep alone, I just want to shoot my gun…” Not to suggest that there isn't heart or care evident in the crafting of these songs, frankly the stories scattered across all nine songs are ones of heartache, relationships that seem to be either developing or faltering; the songs are unhurried glimpses into ambiguous narratives.

The falsetto tends to wear thin on Cherry Red, when it starts to sound like Jim James covering Broken Social Scene, but there's no denying Phelan can evoke aching with ease. Bill, Dance, Shiner is a record to take time listening, to let it steep and grow with you.