ALBUM REVIEW: Boy & Bear – Boy & Bear

4.5 rating
Boy & Bear

Marking their first album since the pre-pandemic Suck on Light, Australian indie quintet Boy & Bear are back with their self-titled album. Boy & Bear is the band’s fifth studio album, but it’s the first to be released independently. Those who have heard Boy & Bear’s previous stuff will be accustomed to melodic tracks packed with captivating grooves that revel in subtle indie genre shifts, dancing from rock to pop to folk over the course of an album.  

Boy & Bear’s latest release is a little different in that respect, though, placing greater emphasis on blending vintage and more contemporary sounds. This has been achieved by experimenting with mixing analogue and digital—a newer territory for the group.

Boy & Bear’s opening track ‘Strange World’ immediately demonstrates this fresh sound, starting with synth work before singer Dave Hosking leads listeners into layered drums and guitars. There’s a real grooviness to the sound that, while upbeat, evokes a certain melancholy. In fact, this vibe sets the tone for much of the album. It works, too, emphasising hope and strength in times of darkness. Boy & Bear’s previous album, Suck on Light, explored Hosking’s battle with a chronic illness. Fortunately, Hosking is doing better now, but by his own admission, it’s an ongoing battle. Lyrically, Boy & Bear reflects his continuing fight as well as the impact the illness has had on his personal relationships.

‘Strange World’ is a solid start to the album that continues into ‘State of Flight’, the first single from the album. Here, too, listeners are greeted with a cheerful-sounding opening. The bass is ultra-groovy on this track, and Hosking’s vocals soar to make sections sound dreamy and ethereal. ‘Silver Moon’ is a wonderful demonstration of how Boy & Bear have decided to marry old and new sounds. The synths and bass are a beautiful combination, and the layered guitar makes the track totally addictive.

The album’s fourth track, ‘Magnus’, is one of Boy & Bear’s standout tracks. It’s catchy and full of atmosphere. And then there’s the gorgeously worked-in sax towards the song’s end that oozes moody late-night vibes. It’s one of those tracks that beg to be stuck on repeat. ‘Apex’ is another catchy song from the album featuring well-worked layering and lyrics that tie into Hosking’s current point in his life.

‘Muscle’ continues to utilise an upbeat, dreamy sound and has a message to share about persevering and, as the name suggests, remaining strong through tough times. ‘Crossfire’ relies heavily on Husking’s voice to give it weight. While it’s not the album’s strongest track, it provides a solid platform for Husking to show off his vocal talents, varying his pitch to add depth and dynamism to what’s otherwise an unremarkable song.

Boy & Bear’s next track, ‘Just to Be Kind’, is driven by a tidy disco-esque beat. It’s sure to set a foot or toe tapping while other sounds reverberate, helping to envelop the listener. It’s a well-polished track that shows real maturity. ‘Tin Man’ begins with ghostly layered vocals and effects, which continue throughout the track. There’s an increase in tempo from ‘Just to Be Kind’. The fast-paced nature seems to conflict with the song’s otherworldly atmosphere. But only in the same way that chocolate and salt sound like they shouldn’t go together, yet they do. It’s a juxtaposition that works more than it feels it has the right to.

The brakes are applied to the album’s penultimate track, ‘Hostage’. There’s a lovely retro feel, exuding groove and a sublime rhythm. It’s super catchy and definitely qualifies as one of the album’s stronger songs. Boy & Bear then concludes with ‘The Wheel’—a beautiful track about mental health. It’s a winding story of a song that snakes its way through sections of varying tempo and emotion. It starts with a slightly gloomy composition before becoming more upbeat. But a little before the halfway mark, the mood plummets, representing the ups and downs of life, especially when mental health issues are involved.

Husking gives us some really heartfelt lyrics to reflect on: ‘There’s part of me that I can’t explain, it comes from my second brain, it can make friends with pain, it can make friends. It sits inside on the edge of sin, sucks on the dopamine; it can make friends with pain, it can make friends with pain.’ An interesting double bass part then really sinks the mood before the song suddenly picks back up again and rides a wave of euphoria to close the album.

While Boy & Bear sees the band of the same name enter new territory with respect to their sound, there’s still a lot of the energy from earlier material. This latest release sounds polished, yet some tracks maintain a certain rawness, giving the album a down-to-earth feel. This is emphasised by Hosking’s heartfelt lines, which aren’t always the most jovial, but are a genuine reflection of this current time in his life. Ultimately, Boy & Bear is a really solid listen that marks the beginning of a new era for the Sydney-based band.


Xsnoize Author
Sam Williams 6 Articles
Sam Williams was born in the UK but has lived the best part of the last ten years in Taipei. There, he spends much of his free time floating between the city’s live music bars and trying not to drink excessive quantities of bubble tea (the weight gain is real). When not out and about, he writes and edits for a local English magazine, which requires him to be a stickler for good grammar, though he’s admittedly not immune to the occasional slip-up. His taste in music could best be described as eclectic, but if pushed would probably say his favourite genres are blues, grunge, trip-hop, and various forms of rock.

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