released May 4th, 2010
from the album - My Time
from all music
With catchy song titles like "Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked," "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!," and "Lemurs, Man, Lemurs," it's hard not to be at least a little bit curious about this Seattle-based quintet. Featuring members of Botch, Kill Sadie, and Sharks Keep Moving, Minus the Bear emerged on Seattle's music scene in 2001 with the release of their six-song EP This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic. The band comprised guitarist Dave Knudson, vocalist/ guitarist Jake Snider, drummer Erin Tate, and bassist Cory Murchy. Though the band entered the studio before they ever played a show, they toured aggressively in support of the EP, then returned to the studio to record 2002's Highly Refined Pirates, their first full-length album. Both the EP and LP were released by Seattle-based Suicide Squeeze Records.
Though the song titles may lead one to believe that they're a novelty act, Minus the Bear provides polished, shrewdly arranged songs. Finger-tapped guitar riffs mixed with catchy melodies and unexpected time changes keep listeners interested and entertained. Minus the Bear issued two EPs in 2004: Bands Like It When You Yell "Yar!" at Them on Suicide Squeeze and They Make Beer Commericals Like This on Arena Rock. Their next full-length, the self-produced Menos el Oso (Spanish for Minus the Bear), appeared in August 2005; the remix album Interpretaciones del Oso followed in early 2007. The band released the full-length Planet of Ice later that year. In 2009 the band went into the studio with My Morning Jacket producer Joe Chiccarelli, and the following year released the album Omni through Dangerbird Records.
Marching down the increasingly electronic path set before them on 2007’s Planet of Ice, Minus the Bear continue to evolve their knotty, math-tinged indie pop away from traditional arrangements and into more synthesized spaces. On Omni, drum machines accompany live drums, and the intricately tapped guitar lines are accented, and sometimes out and out replaced, by winding synths. The effect is an even more relaxed and breezy Minus the Bear than listeners might be used to. Regardless of the instrumentation used, the band displays the same casual confidence that made Menos el Oso so easy to like. The only difference is that rather than guitar acrobatics, the band is dealing in a smoother, more atmospheric and ethereal sound. Synthesizers take center stage on the album opener, “My Time,” where guitars are used to fill out the sonic palette as multiple keyboard lines intertwine with one another to create a luxurious, almost bon vivant, groove. Like flipping a switch, the roles of the instruments change as the album rolls seamlessly into “Summer Angel,” letting the keys create a sense of space while the guitars gracefully dance around one another in classic Minus the Bear fashion. Deeper in, tracks like “Excuses” and “Into the Mirror” find the band growing more and more easygoing, shifting its focus toward drifting, dreamy pop. At first, the stylistic shift on Omni seems jarring, but looking back at their other releases, it becomes clear that the sound here was almost inevitable. All the pieces that make Minus the Bear an entertaining listen are still here, but rather than experimenting with more progressive arrangements, the goal is to carefully control the mood of the album, creating a soundscape that's more restrained than anything they’ve ever done, but just as affecting.
1 My Time Minus the Bear, Snider 4:05
2 Summer Angel Minus the Bear, Snider 4:44
3 Secret Country Minus the Bear, Snider 5:31
4 Hold Me Down Minus the Bear, Snider 4:07
5 Excuses Minus the Bear, Snider 4:30
6 The Thief Minus the Bear, Rose, Snider 4:41
7 Into the Mirror Minus the Bear, Snider 5:10
8 Animal Backwards Minus the Bear, Rose, Snider 4:16
9 Dayglow Vista Rd. Minus the Bear, Snider 5:09
10 Fooled by the Night Minus the Bear, Snider 7:21