The London trio toured with Gentlemen Of The Road in 2013, drummer Kevin Jones co-founded Communion with Mumford’s Ben Lovett, and Bear’s Den’s new album Islands revels in the sort of soaring, introspective melancholia that Mumford & Sons have ridden up the pop charts.
It’s the first full-length release from Bear’s Den, following a pair of EPs that came out in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Their sound is all about atmospherics on Islands. Bear’s Den wrap the music in lush reverb on songs that most often start with fade-ins from keyboards or strings and then build into majestic expressions of woe (those would be the statement of purpose). The arrangements are rooted in acoustic instruments, with a lilting three-note banjo fill surrounded by strummed guitar and stirring vocal harmonies on ‘Agape’, rich, bright guitar chords filling out ‘Stubborn Beast’ and finger-picked guitar anchoring the quiet, steady ‘Above The Clouds Of Pompeii’. The songs tend to follow a pattern, expanding from spare early verses into ringing, church-choir choruses that spiral ever upward.
The beautiful track ‘The Love We Stole’ is stand out for me. With a wistful and catchy chorus and a developing choral vibe its reminiscent of Bon Iver mashed with Mumford and Sons: quite a stunning mix. The individuality of each track on this LP brings something new to the table that their previous work potentially didn’t. ‘Above The Clouds Of Pomepii’ is beautifully dark and has the ability to make you stop and listen, a trait that many new LPs tend to lack in.