Far and away, my record of the year so far has been this masterpiece from Washington-based five-piece Minus The Bear. They've been around for quite a while now, so releasing a CD of this calibre after so many years of recording and touring is nothing short of astounding. Make no mistake, this blew me away when I first heard it and remains one of those rare albums that I can still listen to from start to finish and enjoy every second.
Immediately, lead track "My Time" gradually builds its tempo until the sudden delivery of a liquid rush of twinkling chords. Combining the guitar with the synths is done so flawlessly that, at times, it's almost impossible to differentiate the two sounds. It's common for me to instantly attach myself to the first track of any album and I have to admit that the same is true for "My Time". There's a foreign loveliness to the sound that develops itself as the song goes on and still leaves room for the rest of the album to find itself.
With "Summer Angel", the band craft a song about how deep love leads to passionate sex; doing so by shifting styles abruptly from a ballad-esque main riff to a much more sensual and warm bridge.
By far, my personal highlight of this CD lies in the one-two punch of "Into The Mirror" and "Animal Backwards", the former leading into the latter. To emphasise the transition, the two songs even share a melody with a slightly altered arrangement: the amount of technique that has gone into tying the album together into a cohesive whole is nothing short of astounding. "Into The Mirror" is a thing of beauty, painting a picture of a love affair that shouldn't be and yet is completely inevitable. It features gorgeous female vocals on the chorus and the end result is haunting and beautiful.
For fans of mellow yet technical rock I simply cannot recommend this album enough. The band has distanced itself sufficiently from its previous albums like Planet Of Ice while retaining their pure sound and the themes of their lyrics. As an ambitious and enjoyable album, there has not been one like it all year.