Jon Philpot, Joe Stickney and Adam Wills had maintained certain obscurity before they released the critically acclaimed Beast Rest Forth Mouth in 2009. Since then, however, the Brooklyn trio—known artistically as Bear In Heaven—has endured a whirlwind of change, playing some 200 shows, fine-tuning their live show and catering to bigger crowds in the process. Therefore, it’s only natural for anticipation to heighten for the band’s subsequent album, I Love You, It’s Cool, which treads the same path as the aforementioned Forth Mouth as a danceable medley of surreal jams evoking the festive spirit of 1980s pop, plodding along with a refreshing exuberance. While Bear In Heaven doesn’t blaze a new trail in its genre, it still hits the mark with rolling bass lines and stampeding drums. This is titanic headphone music with rich stadium sound.
Given the album’s title, one could’ve expected a recording of lovelorn torment or soul-searching dejection. Instead, I Love You, It’s Cool plays like an effervescent setlist of the band’s next concert, with maximized percussion and pervasive synths that swell with each note, breathing effortlessly until the space is filled with its euphoric mixture. Clearly, Bear In Heaven was more focused on crafting a cohesive project than crafting hit singles, as these tracks are best served when played in succession on loud volume. But that’s not to say It’s Cool doesn’t have standout songs: “Sinful Nature” uses cymbals and escalating keys to establish an even mood. “Space Remains” is a cosmic blend of tribal bass drums and restless electronic sounds punctuated by Philpot’s ambient moans. By the time “Sweetness & Sickness” comes around, the feel is noticeably dim: raucous guitar riffs give way to acoustic strings, invigorating thumps dissolve into scant drum taps and window-shattering frequencies become peacefully sporadic.
Much like on Forth Mouth, Bear In Heaven repurposes the nonchalant “shoegazing” aesthetic made famous within the 1990s British pop scene. Here, the vocals dissolve into the melody and become part of its atmospheric instrumental, making it tough to discern the band’s overall message. Yet it all works somehow to create a spiritual presentation: “Daylight won’t stop the flashing lights/It feels like a thousand years have gone by without you,” Philpot sings on “The Reflection of You.” And unlike Forth Mouth, which seemed more primal in its approach, It’s Cool feels glossier, smoothing the mechanical krautrock edges with polished prog-rock, the results of which are more accessible than its previous work. Still, it’s inaccurate to say the new material is new or groundbreaking. Rather, the two albums represent two sides of the same coin—each noticeably different than the other, yet one isn’t glaringly better than the other. All told, I Love You, It’s Cool won’t resonate upon first listen. It’ll have to grow on you, but once it does, there’s no denying its enchantment.