Foolish Love is available at:
18th April 2016
Sweet Anthony– 9.6
Foolish Love– 9.6
First in Line– 9.5
Bronze, Silver and Gold– 9.4
In the Afterglow– 9.5
Sweet Anthony; Foolish Love; First In Line
IT has been a fair while since I reviewed Hunting Bears…
but it is good to return. Before coming to their new sounds- and how the band has developed- I wanted to look at the understated (and underappreciated) nature of Baroque-Pop; the way things have shaped up in 2015- the need for beauty and contemplation in music. I like to think I am a lover of many kinds of music: there are few genres that I will overlook. To be fair, I have little time for Country, Dub-Step; Classical and World- but will not ignore these genres altogether. Even inside those (rather divisive) types of music there is plenty to recommend and enjoy. That is the great thing about music in general: there is an enormous amount of choice and beauty to be discovered. What irks me most is how confined some musicians are. I have bemoaned this fact before- and shall not whip that horse too much now- but get angry at certain musicians. If you are coming onto the scene- fresh and eager for success- it is not good enough phoning it in and doing what everyone else is doing. Technology has advanced to the stage where we can incorporate any sound and instrument into a song. There are limitless possibilities and unbridled potential. This criticism is not just levelled at bands: solo artists are just as guilty when it comes to the matter of diversity. If you feel Rock/guitar-based bands are becoming too formulaic and stifled: the same must be said at many emerging Pop acts. Yesterday, I reviewed two very different artists: each of them is pushing boundaries and creating something exciting. From London, Lola Coca is a Hip-Hop/Pop artist who puts tales of creepy guys- slimy city types- inside addictive and catchy songs. By contrast; Fifi Rong creates haunting Electronic sounds that detail forbidden love and longing- wrapped up inside mystical electronics and thudding beats. Pop is a wide genre that has the potential to make a big difference in the music world. I feel the mainstream’s ‘best’ are not setting a good example to underground artists. Instead of setting an example; they are rather lackluster and unspectacular. The best Pop music around is that which can mix beauty and tenderness together with something exciting and fresh. Hunting Bears came to my radar a while ago- I cannot remember the exact date- and I was instantly hooked. The Leeds-based collective describe their music as a mixture of Baroque-Pop and Folk. If those words send shivers down the spine- some rather snobbish music fans might balk- then you need to get over yourself a bit. Too few of us are adventurous, and when you start listening to Hunting Bears- the effect is rather special. The guys focus on love and its perils; fascinating characters and cherished heroes- slice-of-life digressions and fantastical dreamscapes. At the core is that reality: heartfelt songs that tackle the balance of love and how capricious it can be. Rather than present (such themes) with predictable measures- listen to any new artist on
The guys focus on love and its perils; fascinating characters and cherished heroes- slice-of-life digressions and fantastical dreamscapes. At the core is that reality: heartfelt songs that tackle the balance of love and how capricious it can be. Rather than present (such themes) with predictable measures- listen to any new artist on Radio 1– there is serene beauty and tenderness; stirring strings and gorgeous vocals- music that will strike and seduce every listener. Little is known about the band- in terms of their biography- but the guys are a very slick, professional and busy group. All their social media sites are updated: their songs are readily available; they are a very accessible band. Foolish Love is a five-track E.P. that is going to rank among 2016’s most-essential releases. I am not saying this as a fan of Hunting Bears: Foolish Love is a wonderful release from a band that is making big strides. Leeds is a city that has often been in my sights: every week, there is another Yorkshire gem in view. Although London might be leading the new music race- in terms of invention and quality- Leeds is one of the most consistent and surprising areas for music. I feel the mainstream is rather spotty and unpredictable. Last year, we saw the likes of Kendrick Lamar make big footprints. This year, there have been a few good albums: on the whole, we are still waiting for that explosion. In the meantime, eyes are cast to new musicians- those unsigned or under-the-radar- for something special. I have seen a great deal of fantastic artists emerge this year. Hunting Bears certainly rank among the most interesting artists in the U.K. I mentioned their sense of beauty and reflectiveness: there is so much more to the band than that. West Coast melody and Neo-Soul sits with Folk: Gospel strands and ‘70s Pop nestles in sensuous tenderness and romance. A wonderful group with a very clear future ahead of them.
Those that are new and fresh to Hunting Bears’ music: you might want to see how far they have come and where they started. The band have been playing together for a while but Foolish Love is their most complete and authoritative statement to date. I have been aware of their music since hearing Sweet Anthony a couple of months back. That track makes it onto Foolish Love- ranking among the finest moments on record- and shows what the guys are made of. Foolish Love is the natural starting point for new listeners. It combines ‘older’ songs- a few months old- and newer inclusions. Throughout the five tracks you hear that consistency and range. Each song has its own personality and position: there is not a sense the band have struggled for inspiring material. The quintet of songs hangs together beautifully and assuredly. I hope the group goes onto create more E.P.s- and an album perhaps- as they have a wonderful kinship and connection. Follow their progress on social media; find their music on SoundCloud– watch how they develop and grow over the years.
Sweet Anthony opens Foolish Love with urgency and passion. Tribal-like vocals echo and strike from the speaker. The listener does not have time to reflect and guess: the band get things underway with intention and headiness. The opening moments see vocal harmonies- gorgeous, feminine and lustful- melt with pulsing electronics. You get a mixture of Baroque-Pop and Electronica; little shades of Rock, too- a terrific blend of rushing deceleration and immense beauty. After early harmonising; our heroine comes to microphone to tell a (rather sad) story. At heart, there is a need to reclaim some former love: a feeling and connection that seems to be missing. “This fight”, it seems, it “our own creation”. The lovers are undergoing turmoil and are at loggerheads, it appears. Separated by distance and contrasting desires: you get a real feeling of longing and anxiety in the vocal performance. Backing the vocal iare lush strings and pattering percussion. The composition never gets in the way of things- intruding in the foreground- but ensures the lyrics are given plenty of colour and emotion. The entire group show that unbreakable intuition and connection on the first track. Not just confining itself to a single line and sound: the song goes through movements and changes pace as it progresses. Providing nuance, unpredictability and beauty: Sweet Anthony dives, sweeps and swims in the mind. Augmented by a truly stunning vocal performance- lead and harmony- you get a song that goes into the heart and evokes true emotion. Whilst it is a personal song; you cannot help but feel effected and reflective. The heroine provides apology- backed by sensual vocal backing- and seem to regret what has come before. Here is a song that has plenty of depth and maturity. It is clear the band has a love of U.S. Folk and Pop. You get a clear taste of West Coast Pop and Folk uniting in Sweet Anthony. If that chorus does not stay in the mind forever- there is a very clear danger it will- then the band’s tight and impassioned performance will. At one moment you will hear embers of Country and Pop; the next you witness high-pitched guitar lines and rousing strings. The band pack so many ideas into the composition: it never sounds forced or too crowded; everything fuses completely naturally. A wonderful start to the E.P.
The title track arrives next and starts with a funky kick. The strings shiver and shimmer; the percussion kicks and drives- I get little tastes of early-career Steely Dan (oddly). When our heroine arrives in the spotlight, you are already hooked. Being a “Fool to trust only one”; there are regrets and doubts early on. Again, some U.S. strands make their presence known- bit of ‘70s Soul and Californian Pop- that sit with homegrown lyrics or disconnection and bad romance. Hunting Bears are synonymous with their incredible vocals. Here, we get one of the most beautiful and tender performances across the E.P. The band does not pack the song with too many lyrics: keeping things economical and simple. “This heart” is a duo of words that are repeated and gain new meaning with each presentation. Containing pain, loss and sensuousness; romance, loss and need- so many contrasts and ideas can be found with such a simple idea. Not only do the vocal harmonies make you smile and calm the soul: the instrumentation and band performance is filled with wonderful little details. Again, we get some Folk-inspired strings; plenty of drama and darkness. Hunting Bears are never too introspective and moody: their music contains plenty of optimism, beauty and energy. So much time and attention has gone into the song. The composition starts and stops. There are stunning little moments and passages: the track has a fluidity and progression; it demonstrates stunning musicianship and thoughtfulness. Whilst the lyrics will affect and compel: it is the composition that elicits the biggest response. The band are completely on-step and on the same page: it is one of the most tight-knit and complete performances I have heard in a long while.
First In Line starts with aching and languid strings. Juxtaposing the rousing and sprite predecessor: here, we have something more down and haunted. That repressed energy does not last: it is replaced by a spirited vocal that changes the mood in a heartbeat. In spite of the sweet vocal and spirit: there is some honesty and humour to be discovered. The heroine admits to a certain lack of bravery- certain spinelessness- and lack of kindness. Maybe going through a tough time- or confessing to some character flaws- you wonder who the song is directed at. Maybe a sweetheart or friend is bearing the brunt of this anger. Our girl has been “playing this game too” long as you can detect a certain fatigue and boredom. Whether going through the motions- stuck in a loveless bond- there is a certain tongue-holding occurring. Strangely honest and confessional- few musicians turn the gun on themselves- you are impressed by the boldness and originality. Remiss to blame things on fate- which doesn’t actually exist- the song acts like a confessional. Foolish Love seems like a concept E.P.; one that revolves around a particular romance. If you take the first two tracks as the start- the break-up and stress; then to being trapped in an unwise bond- here is that realisation and ending. The cracks are showing and there seems like little way back. Most bands- when faced with the same situation- would put too much negativity and anger into the music. Hunting Bears ensure everything is bright and receptive. If anything; this is a cleansing ritual. The spikiness and bristly temper is a way of dealing with pain and heartache. Before you get too involved in interpretation: those heavenly vocals make their presence known. You get a brief sweet of etherealness before the composition steps up a gear. Organ notes come through and the percussion tightens. It lasts for a few seconds but keeps the song agile and mobile. First In Line boasts one of the most effective and memorable choruses: in no small part down to the deliver and uplifting vocals. Completing the song; the band pull together strings, percussion and guitar. At once classical and refined; powerful and driving- these contrasts make the final section hugely effective and emotional.
Bronze, Silver & Gold starts with a wonderful kick and sense of cool. Flecked guitar notes and teasing percussion notes ensure the penultimate track starts with a smile. The heroine speaks of “sweetness and sickness” and “reciprocal forgiveness”: again, there are some regrets and mutual indemnification. The band present one of their most sun-kissed and cool-sounding compositions across the record. It has an almost Jazz-like quality to it. Breezy and West Coast; romantic and lush: it is so easy to get lost inside the song. Perhaps not as strong as other cuts on the E.P. – some of the vocals get buried in the mix- it does showcase how diverse and effective Hunting Bears are. That stunning musicianship and command comes to the fore, here. Like Steely Dan- flecks of them come through again- you just know how much attention has been paid to getting the sound just right. Hunting Bears can sound perfectionist and loose at the same time. Bronze, Silver & Gold is the perfect song for those that need their mind eased and calmed. It has such a relaxing quality to it. No listener will be able to hear the song and not feel soothed and awed. Bronze, Silver & Gold’s ending is perhaps among the E.P.’s most memorable and sensational revelations. The composition comes into its own and shows (once more) how talented the band is. Things get heavier and more domineering. The strings layer and build; the volume increases and the song is filled with rainclouds and shadows. In such a sweet and serene song: the climax is rather unexpected and haunting. Full marks must be given to the band, who subvert expectation and ensure every song has a twist in it.
In the Afterglow ends the E.P. and ensures the listener is left wanting more. Bringing the song up slowly- a very delicate and dreamy fade up- our heroine’s vocal is at its most stunning and committed. Basking underneath an “empty moon” and stars that “have nothing to lose”- the lovers are exposed and revealing themselves. Blame is in the air and the duo has surface wounds. Whilst there are scars and tense emotions- some rather vivid scenes unfolding- love can come through and solve things. Here is a song that got me thinking and curious. Previous tracks (on Foolish Love) looked at split and recriminations. Maybe there is room for hope and reconciliation. The song’s title suggests something quite sexual and climatic: maybe it is a metaphor for when the lovers at their most vulnerable and exposed. The band provides an ample soundtrack for a song that looks at variegated emotions and romance. One-half of me look at something positive and redemptive. Two lovers in the openness of nature: succumbing to each other and rekindling a special connection. On the other hand; I got thinking about truths exposed and old arguments coming to the surface. Hunting Bears put us into nature and bring the song into the open air. The moon, stars and heavens are a backdrop for one of the most impressive vocal performances on the E.P. In The Afterglow is a song that will compel you to keep playing it: be entranced by the beauty and try and get to the bottom of things. A gorgeous song that ends Foolish Love on a high note.
Mary-Jane Walker, Reece Jacob; Richard Bennett, Alice Phelps and Sim Walker have spent a lot of time on Foolish Love. Kudos goes to the band who has created a wonderful E.P. Filled with stunning songs and detailed lyrics: emotional compositions and beautiful vocal harmonies- few band are as unique and effective. This record has been in their minds for a while and they have not rushed its release. Every song has been worked over and rehearsed. That is not to say the songs seem tired or drained. On the contrary, in fact. Every one of the five songs sounds like it is being played for the first time. The guys sound completely dedicated to the subject material and deliver exceptional, energetic performances. The musicianship is exceptional throughout. Every instrument adds depth, colour and emotion to the song; each performance turn has its own merit; when combined, the band sound unbeatable and peerless. Hunting Bears are one of the most individual groups around but are never niche or confining. They explore multiple genres and make music for the masses. Foolish Love shows how special the Leeds clan is.
Foolish Love is out there and already collecting praise and applause. The five-piece have played Green Man– and other prestigious gigs- and are growing by the year. If you are looking for a band that does things different: that goes the extra mile and digs deep inside the soul: you should investigate Leeds’ Hunting Bears. They are not just a Baroque-Pop act: they mix so many genres and colours into a scintillating aroma. At heart, there is that beauty and tenderness; songs about longing and love- delivered with spine-tingling purity and grace. I am not sure what the guys are planning for the forthcoming months. Clearly, there will be some touring demands and big gigs arriving. Hunting Bears are an act that is used to playing mainly-local gigs. They have performed across Yorkshire and you feel they should be acclaimed and dragged further south. I have seen many (lesser) groups hit their stride in London: perform across the U.K. and even find some U.S. dates. Hunting Bears could happily enthrall and delight audiences across New York and California. That said; they could easily fit in London venues and clubs: there is a lot of fans waiting for the band. I am unsure whether financial restraints- being able to afford trips around the nation- are seeing them perform closer to home. It would be great to think the quintet is planning some ambitious gigs this year. I would love to see them (in London) and so would a lot of others. Not to put ideas and dreams in their head: I feel the guys have a big future waiting. What marks Hunting Bears aside- compared contemporaries- is their depth and variability. They are not just confined to a single genre: they have mobility and endeavor; capable and expert in so many areas. At the core is the band chemistry which ensures every song is as beautiful and strong as possible. Foolish Love is the result of a lot of hard work and commitment. There are too many musicians that are following the herd and not taking enough trouble to do things differently. You do not have to complete reinvent music to stand out in the mind.
There is- as I stated at the top- so many possibilities that artists can exploit. We are in the position where everything and anything is possible. Technology is ensuring musicians have easy access to a range of sounds and ideas. Social media makes it easy to connect with fellow artists: collaborate and share ideas over the Internet. Maybe there is TOO much choice available- musicians feel intimidated by the sheer volume of options. Whatever the reasons- behind the lack of adventure- there needs to be some sort of change and campaign. The best and brightest new acts are those that have a clear-cut sound but do not limit themselves. Hunting Bears (on paper) might sound like your average Folk/Pop act: a group that sounds like so many out there. When you dig deep, you find this assumption rather naïve and foolhardy. This Leeds five-piece make music for everyone. Not reserved to Baroque-Pop aficionados and a slightly older audience: their songs will effect and resonate with a huge demographic. Defining this is a huge quality control that goes into Foolish Love. The songs mix universality and quirkiness; stunning beauty and immediacy- so many different emotions and ideas. It would be wonderful to see the group produce an L.P. sometime down the line- I feel the best work is still ahead of them. They are young and ambitious so it will not be long until the band is hitting peak form and sitting alongside the best of the mainstream. Right now, they have created a stunning E.P. that will please existing fans- pull in new supporters and listeners. It is great seeing the Leeds group come big with a huge statement. There are so few musicians that have that six-month longevity- where their music will still be in your head that far after hearing it- but Hunting Bears are among them. That being said; I have to ask this:
WHAT are you waiting for?
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