2014 was a surreal year for Boy & Bear, after playing 170 shows around the world in 10 months promoting their sophomore album Harlequin Dream, not a single new song was written. Frontman Dave Hosking admitted to having fears that the band would fail to meet the looming deadline to record their next album with producer Ethan Johns (Laura Marling). Despite being the lead songwriter, Hosking’s extended the task to his bandmates who would have to find time amongst surfing on NSW’s south coast and drinking wine to get writing again. The rest is history as Limit Of Love has thankfully just been released.
Boy & Bear proves to be yet another one of those Australian frontrunner Indie bands setting an example to the rest of the world, as they lead the way on musical creativity and magnificence. With the release of their new album Limit Of Love, there was a promise of a new sound to be heard. It seems to be like the folk-revival has come to its end, special no thanks to certain bands… *cough* Mumford *cough*.
Nevertheless, as I believe it’s best to embrace change than to shun it, therefore, as a fan and respectful music lover, I enthusiastically welcomed Boy & Bear’s new album with excitement, resulting in a delightful outcome. One reason this change was brought about was due to the departure of bassist Jake Tarasenko in 2012. “No discredit to him, but there was disharmony in how we were working as a group and there were limitations to the way we were operating“, admits Hosking. “It was a tense environment“.
With bands drastically moving into other genres’ territory with no hope of return, my paranoid scepticism once seemed warranted. However, after a few listens of Limit Of Love, those silly assumptions of being disappointment thankfully flew out the window. It is true that Boy & Bear have progressed in a certain direction, dabbling with smooth R&B grooves and the 80s ‘comeback king’, the synthesiser. For those who are die-hard fans of their classic Indie-Folk sound, do see reason because these talented Australian musicians pull it off superbly throughout the album.
No matter how much these once indie-folk bands change, whether this is adopting what classic smooth R&B has to offer or infusing electronica to your music, you can take comfort in the fact that lead singer, Dave Hosking’s vocals certainly don’t change. His unique Southern Americanised country-folk voice returns and is supported by those wonderful vocal harmonies from his bandmates, still resembling the legendary folk-rock bands of the 70s such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and America.
The album kick-starts with one of the most radicalised new Boy & Bear sounds with title-track “Limit Of Love”. Resembling new wave rock licks, electronic tampering and what I can only guess is a cow bell keeping the rhythm throughout, you are thrown into the deep end with this intro. But instead of being rejected to the new style, the slow paced track brilliantly seduces you into the album.
The second track is the familiar “Walk The Wire” which was circulated around the musical world in the months prior to the album release date. This was a clever method from the Australian rockers to release it early as a tool so fans could familiarise themselves with Boy & Bear’s progression, as this song presents their new sound, this time incorporating synth. This electronic sound reinforces the strong guitar riffs and catchy melody which allows this song to shine.
Tracks “Where’d You Go”, “Man Alone” and “Ghost 11”, resembles their earlier Moonfire and Harlequin Dream tunes, in which that dominant electric guitar is the only electronic aspect accompanied by the piano, entirely supporting the focal point of the incredible formal vocals. Nevertheless, I would argue that “Showdown” is the stand out track from the album.
The keyboard organ stylised chords in the background sets a mysteriously calming ambiance combined with a slow beat and enchanting chorale vocals. Gradually meeting a powerful crescendo, it is quickly brought straight back down to the emotive sombre soul of the tune. Speaking about the writing of this track, Hosking claims: “With Showdown I was on Jon [Hart]’s keyboard, and I play keyboards terribly – I don’t go near the black notes – but when Jon walked in he couldn’t believe the sounds I’d got by just pressing lots of buttons“. To which he profoundly states “sometimes ignorance can get you interesting results“.
Overall, I am very impressed with what these once Indie-folkers have to offer. They are not short on accolades winning ‘Best Album’ for Moonfire at the ARIA awards in 2011, then being nominated again in 2013 for Harlequian Dream, I hope more of the same for Boy & Bear. They will be performing their new album in multiple intimate gigs throughout November, one of which I will be attending at Dingwalls, London. So let’s cheer, sway and sing together as we welcome their third album into our hearts.
Limit Of Love is out now via Universal (out in the UK on October 30), purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Finn Brownbill