Boy & Bear – Harlequin Dream

boy-and-bear-harlequin-dreamRating: ★★★½☆

Harlequin Dream is the second LP from Australian folk-rock band Boy & Bear.  Like their 2011 debut, Moonfire, this is a great sounding, very well produced record with several memorable tunes.

Boy & Bear work within the same reverb-soaked modern folk-rock style of bands like Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses.  Vocally, it’s hard not to hear a major Fleet Foxes influence here.  Still, Boy & Bear have found their own sound, and their tunes are generally more driven and upbeat than their contemporaries.

Harlequin Dream feels more pop and less folk-influenced than Moonfire.  The first five songs are all fairly bright, high-energy tunes.  The album slows down for the first time and takes a slightly reflective turn with “A Moment’s Grace”, before picking back up with the folk-sounding “End of the Line”, which has enough banjo in it to feel like a Mumford and Sons piece.  The next song, “Back Down the Black”, feels very out of place here, maybe because its subject is so much more serious than anything else on the album.  The last two songs are my personal favorites, especially the mellow, meditative “Arrow”.

The vocals throughout Harlequin Dream are quite strong.  There are some really well done, smooth harmonies as well as some impressive displays of range.  The title track in particular is incredibly hard to sing along to, although it’s catchy enough to make you want to try and fail (I did).

Lyrically this feels like a fairly straightforward rock record, with many of the songs covering such inexhaustible subjects as desire and loss.  The mood stays lighthearted throughout the album, but there’s still room for some complex lyrical structures in songs like “Real Estate.”

I like how Harlequin Dream expands upon the Boy & Bear’s already solid sound.  I definitely think that this band is only going to get more popular, and I don’t really have any criticisms of this album other than the fact that the ridiculous cover makes my eyes hurt.

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