God bless progressive musicians who make their music available to fans without fear of losing a dollar or two. When so many artists are quick to claim the internet as a rogue state the provides music to the masses *gasp* for free, there are plenty of artists who use the new medium to put their music out there without consequence. People are free to explore and find new types of music they enjoy.
I recently reviewed MGMT’s Congratulations, and was able to get a couple of weeks head start listening to an album that I had been anticipating for a long time. I enjoy being rewarded for being an impatient fan. It’s the same story with Minus the Bear’s new album Omni, which isn’t set for a physical release until May 4th. But their official website, minusthebear.com, links you to a stream that allows you to listen to the entire album in full.
Allow me to start the formal part of the review by saying this: Go to the website, and listen to this album. And then, when you realize how awesome it actually is, go buy it on May 4th. Buy a physical copy on the website, at a record store, buy it on Itunes, whatever. Just buy it. It’s that good. I haven’t urged anyone to buy an album this much since I single-handedly proclaimed the New Radicals “Band of the 90s” in 1998.
Omni manages to pack a lot of progress into only ten tracks. It’s more polished than previous albums, and seems to have a certain sense of focus most great bands possess. It was produced by Joe Chiccarelli, who has worked with great bands like My Morning Jacket and The White Stripes. I think the addition of a track-record proven producer took a band with tons of talent and really elevated them to the next level.
This album is one of the most diversely balanced albums I have heard in my entire life. It has so many ingredients involved, but Minus the Bear proves that they have the right recipe to create some blissfully melodic music, while also maintaining their progressive and experimental edge. But at some point between 2005 and 2007 (I’m guessing 2006), the band decided to pursue growth over cheeky and odd album and song titles.
This band has some magical qualities, to be sure. This isn’t a band who rushes into anything. They took three years to put this album together after what was deemed their breakout album Planet of Ice in 2007. Most bands would have immediately capitalized on their newfound notoriety and rushed into the studio to bang out a subpar follow-up effort. Not Minus the Bear. They subsequently released an acoustic album, but it was largely comprised of previous songs. With Omni they took their time, and it was absolutely worth the wait.
The album begins with “My Time”, the first single. It’s a good song to become acquainted with the band if you are not already. It really shows their genre blending mechanics quite well. In a nutshell it’s indie rock with an electronic, spacey feel. However, the band never falls into the trappings of trying to make an album that can’t be categorized simply. They implement a variety of new sounds on Omni, while also perfecting their prior sound. “My Time” is a perfect song choice to kick of this album. It’s Minus the Bear in their element, at their most accessible. “Summer Angel” has some good plucky guitar work, and as usual great harmonized vocals. It begins very intensely, and has a nice bass solo accompanied by some nice reverb guitar work that leads into a lead guitar solo.
The album is largely a massive success because not only are there no throwaway tracks on the album, but the way they are ordered is incredibly logical and really allows for the album to flow effortlessly from track to track. “Excuses” allows MTB to slow the tempo down, and they really show great range after four aggressive rock songs. But “Excuses” doesn’t slow down so much that the album loses the momentum it has gained or sound out of place and bland.
“Into the Mirror” is another great Minus the Bear song, and is another great one to seek out if you just want to get to know the band in one song. Looping guitars and snappy drumming with an ethereal ambiance driven by synthesizers and hook filled lyrics. “Animal Backwards” is an incredibly interesting song with tremendous layering and a unique sound. It’s unmistakable, and really feels like a lot of things being put into a blender and then frappe’d together to an interesting combination.
The album ends strongly with it’s last two songs being quite possibly the best overall on Omni. “Dayglow Vista Rd.” would be a phenomenal arena anthem at a live show, as it takes all of the new elements introduced by the band on this album and their previous strengths and combines them in one song.
But this is nothing to be said about the album’s closer, “Fooled By The Night”. It’s a seven and a half minute song that makes sweet love to your ears. It starts off slowly, delicately, and then builds into a frenzy of looping guitars squealing around a bouncy, yet ominous synth.
Buy this album. Yesterday. It has absolutely phenomenal replay-ability, and is start to finish one of the strongest album I have listened to in years. There isn’t one song worth skipping, no lemon in the bunch. The album is a road map of who Minus the Bear is and who they are becoming. Creative and always exploring unique elements to add into their already proven successful formula, Minus the Bear have produced what is sure to be one of the best albums of the year with Omni.
Final Score: 8.5/10 (Approaching Greatness)