Eliza And The Bear have had interests piqued for quite some time now – they’ve released one strong tune after another and its feature on a Bulmers advert got their euphoric smash hit Friends stuck in heads up and down the country. Fans’ thirst for new music has been quenched this week with the release of their self-titled debut album, and it’s pretty much everything expected of the promising quintet. It’s simply overflowing with the most ecstatic summer jams you’ll probably hear all year, and lyrics like “I lost myself in the cold / but I’m still here” just prove how much this record inspires pure positivity for the most part. Cuts like the enraptured Upon The North and brilliant Lion’s Heart are the musical equivalent of a classic beach day – warm like the weather, immersive like the sand between your toes and impossible not to smile at.
Pretty much since their inception, the press have labelled Eliza And The Bear a “folk-pop” band, and it’s a fitting label. Their sound definitely ventures more towards pop than anything else, especially in terms of singer James Kellegher’s voice. Kellegher and Martin Dukelow’s guitars are relied on to bulk up the eleven tracks (although their input is mostly subtle) but Callie Noakes’ keyboards are far and away the backbone of the album. They provide both staples of Eliza And The Bear’s sound – i.e their trademark brass stabs that are woven effortlessly through the record – and numerous ventures into more experimental territories. Where Have You Been has chirpy marimba sounds at its fore, while following track Make It On My Own is dreamy and stompy, all down to those keyboards. Every track from the pure pop of Light It Up to epic, string-embellished closer I’m On Your Side is quintessentially Eliza And The Bear but brilliantly ever-changing. It’s probably rare enough to find an act who can vary their sound much in one album successfully, and the fact that the Londoners have done it so well on their debut is nothing short of impressive.
In fact, the only aspects of this album which aren’t enjoyable are ballads Cruel and Oxygen. The former is a drippy, piano-led number which sadly makes Kellegher’s part and therefore non-tear-jerking lyrics like “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you all the world” the main focus, and the latter, although undoubtedly better than Cruel with its stomping, swirling edginess, soon finds itself with nowhere to go resulting in a pointless horn break at the two-minute mark. Although Eliza And The Bear do switch up their sound, their underlying tweeness compared to other bands out there does start to take its toll after a while, especially if you’re not quite in the mood to listen to such a sun-drenched record. Their lyrical themes don’t vary much either, and a lot of the songs reference getting old or reminiscing about youth, and this may irritate for folk more focused on the semantics.
But overall, there’s a lot to love about Eliza And The Bear. It’s just a fun, feelgood record that is more than sure to propel the guys further than ever before. And surely a song as impossible not to adore as Friends shows the potential they have. So like you would on that sunny beach day, soak up every bit of it.
For fans of: Coasts, Mumford & Sons, The Vamps
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Eliza And The Bear’ by Eliza And The Bear is out now on Mi Familia Music.