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Bear Cavalry – Maple Trails EP

on December 20, 2011, 7:57am
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Gosport, UK’s Bear Cavalry are either having a really good time making music, or they really want you to believe that they are.The four-piece splashes together bits of prog, math, and that worldbeat-inspired, eccentric instrumentation brand of indie rock championed by the likes of the Dirty Projectors and Yeasayer. Whether it’s the exceptionally staccato guitars, soaring falsetto vocals, or a song title like “Will Smith Solves the Rubik’s Cube”, they’re practically begging you to dance along and have some fun. That said, the hooks don’t compare to the epic tone of the jubilation, leaving the party’s dance floor feeling a little empty.

Of the four songs on their latest sampler EP, Maple Trails, opener “Roman Summer” is the one that hits its mark most readily. The stuttered, razor-sharp guitar attacks that pop things off are pure energy, but the vocals that follow are much too slippery to do any real damage. The percussion is seriously groovy, and the guitars are immaculately prickly, but the huge Fleet Foxes-style harmonies that crop up half a minute from the end of the song are terribly out of place.

Horns make their first appearance on the brief “Custom Hands”, mirroring the plinky math rock guitar patterns that dominate the verses. In the end, the horns seem ultimately unnecessary; they’re not adding anything that the sharply attacked guitars aren’t contributing, and the songs have their own funky propulsion before their appearance. Somehow, the goofy lyrics cover safaris, palm trees, and New York in a single breath, followed by a faux-Caribbean sing-along.

The mind-bending “Dragon’s Milk Pt. II” somehow opens on sunny, synth goofiness, hits a wide open ballad bridge, finds its stride in a jog through math territory, and builds to a catastrophic ending in a chaotic calliope setting. There are some interesting moments throughout those five and a half minutes, as well as some seriously silly ones, but nothing is left to latch onto.

Essential Tracks: “Roman Summer”

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