Golden Bear – Everest EP

Golden Bear - Everest EP

Golden Bear - Everest EP

To me, there is no better music than finely written and arranged pop/rock. Be it from the 60s with The Beatles, Beach Boys and even early Bee Gees, or presently with Death Cab For Cutie, The Flaming Lips and Fountains of Wayne, nothing else can compare. As evidenced at least by their new EP Everest (I haven’t heard their other work), the members of Golden Bear should be added to the list. While they combine obvious traits from the latter three bands, this short five song cycle is merely a glimpse into the catalog of a promising new quintet.

Formed in Texas in 2003, Golden Bear is Chris Gregory (guitar, vocals), Grant Van Ambergh (drums), Austin Jenkins (bass), Matt Gardiner (keyboards) and Andrew Gregory (keyboards). Humorously citing influences such as “Go-Go Boots, Grass and You,” the band is expertly captures the colorful warmth of the genre. Everest follows the group’s two highly acclaimed albums, 2006’s Golden Bear and 2007’s To The Farthest Star, and it accomplishes a lot in less than a half hour.

With distorted guitars, surprisingly catchy keyboard intervals and modest, pure melodies, “Night Lights” is a great track to open with. Golden Bear successfully makes interesting sounds out of conventional tools. It has the energy of a band trying to prove themselves while also showing the craft of players who know their own sound. “Future Beams” is like a more basic, bare bones Death Cab song. The funky bass, marching beat and staccato guitar riffs keep it moving, and the harmonies aren’t too shabby either. “Miracle Mile” has a slight English feel to it, as if it’s an unreleased track by Television. This is a more direct rocker track with less subtlty (it won’t reveal much with subsequent listens), but it’s still a good track, and fairly different from to its two predecessors (like it could be a different band playing).

“Everest” has a tangy, sharp guitar and jazzy keyboard over a bit too familiar melody (I’m sure I’ve heard one very similar before). It’s a sign of Golden Bear’s talent and ability to work together that the track is still interesting, partially because of the odd, Eno-esque noises that give it its own personality. Finally, “All The Stars” brings back that Death Cab feel in the harmonies (which, needless to say, is a good thing), and the reserved use of trumpets add something special. As for the melody, it would fit on a Flaming Lips record if it were even weirder and more cartoony. It builds up to a nice climax of horns, vocals and odd loops, which is the perfect way to end the album.

Golden Bear is a band to keep an eye on. There can never be enough groups who write and perform this type of music this well, and they would be a welcome discovery for fan of the genre. They aren’t quite as distinctive or as high quality as their better known contemporaries, but hopefully with time they will be. All great bands need time to grow, mature and perfect their formula, so it’s understandable that Everest isn’t at the level that other acts are, but it’s close, and I’m sure that with time and patience, Golden Bear will become truly great pop/rock masters.

Check Out Golden Bear’s Myspace