Indie trio Bear’s Den generated buzz with their debut EP ‘Agape’, which was released a mere eight months ago. The band emerged just last year from the same scene that produced the highly popular Mumford & Sons. ‘Agape’ opened to good reviews, and it didn’t take the band long to get right back in the studio.
The band’s debut thrived on emotive, heartfelt lyrics accompanied by folky, banjo-laden instrumentation. ‘Without/Within’ doesn’t deviate much from the original path, which works for a group like Bear’s Den. The music hits a soft spot with the listener and fastens its grip into a complex emotional state.
‘Without/Within’ opens with Sahara, a strange, vocally sparse track that leads into a rich chorus. The light guitar and vocal harmonies give the track a softness but don’t detract from the more upbeat tempo. The next tune, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Steal You Away’, contains some of the album’s best lyrics that will hit the heartstrings. Ben Davie’s voice accompanied by the once again perfect harmonies delivers the chorus with fierce power. The banjos keep it mellow, but also seem to lend a reflective quality to the track.
Next in line is Writing on the Wall. The instrumentation is a bit different on this song, with the guitar and drums featured more prominently. It is the most upbeat on the EP and almost has a danceable quality. It is a nice change of pace but still has the expressive lyrics that we have come to expect.
Sophie slows down the pace and represents the most somber track on the record. The intricate banjos and quiet delivery from Davie can bring a tear to even the driest eye. He sings of what seems like a family member or close friend who has been ill, “you would hide yourself in a shroud, as your hair started falling out”. The subject matter is one that practically any listener can relate to on some level, making “Sophie” the most emotional of all. The piano adds to the sympathy you feel for whoever this song was penned for, but also makes you reflect on your own personal hardships.
The EP closes with My Lair, another less vocal track with a sort of heaviness that doesn’t come from the actual music, but from the mood it creates.
Overall, ‘Without/Within’ is a great record from a promising new artist. Their genuine lyrics accompanied by beautiful harmonies and an acoustic sound make this EP one that will appeal to fans of any genre.
By Hilari Barton