Grumpy Bear – Hmm…I’m a Little Bit Lonely These Days

Grumpy Bear
Hmm…I’m a Little Bit Lonely These Days

Grumpy Bear is a great name for a band. It evokes images, in my mind at least, of a lumbering force a little on the edge but still warm and fuzzy. The music here isn’t really a lumbering force, but it’s no doubt warm and fuzzy, a mixture of lo-fi acoustic meanderings and off-kilter approach to subtle songwriting.

The approach this Arizona duo of Tyler Blake and Lattney B. takes is something of a mix between classic 60s radio pop and the fuzzed-out folk of Sebadoh/Folk Implosion. Indeed, there’s probably more Lou Barlow here than Brian Wilson, but the unusual point where the two meet makes for a lo-fi mixture of light but quirky folk-pop. Indeed, the neo-folk label gets thrown around a lot these days, and Grumpy Bear’s lo-fi quiet pop approach to such might open a few eyes.

The opening “Buckminster Fuller (And His Singular Relationship to Everything)” is a quiet little acoustic track with warm washes of sound worthy of the Microphones’ Phil Elvrum. “Keepsake (Pt. 1)” and “The Promise” (they flow together) take a page from the seminal folk artists of the 60s, with simple acoustic guitar and sweet vocal harmonies, and yet the mix, which places the guitar subtly in the background and vocals in the fore, gives the song a unique bent.

“Sleepynaut” is a mixture of deceptively simple guitar, ambient vocals, and fuzzed-out distortion, while radio feedback and quiet samples back the otherwise folky “Dreaming with Tears in My Eyes.” A unique beat with a bit of head-swaying funk defines the catchy yet low-key “The Promise,” and some slight electronic flourishes, not to mention a sweetly low bass drum, fill out the album’s highlight, the quiet yet lush “Red Weather Tigers.”

Despite these unusual flourishes that define the band’s sound, the quieter songs have a soft and almost somnambulant feel, such as the almost dreamy organ-led “I Don’t Care if I Should Die, Tonight” and the catchy, playful “Jazz Hands!” And the quiet yet soothing folky “Keepsake (Pt. 2)” that closes the album is a fine addition, letting the listener drift off quietly in the manner the album started. It starts simple, then drifts into the band’s off-kilter yet startling cover of Willie Nelson’s “You Were Always on My Mind” from KEEP Recording’s Keepsake compilation.

There’s a quiet nature to most of Grumpy Bear’s songs that might require a few listens (and a few clicks up of the volume knob) to fully appreciate. The band is subtle, for the most part, but the light-hearted feel of the songs and simple folk approach to lo-fi pop is comforting and sweet.