Initially a solo project headed up by Dave Hosking (vocals) in 2008, this indie quintet has grown to become what is now ‘Boy & Bear‘. Having developed a reputation of Australia’s very own ‘Mumford and Sons’, Boy & Bear have wowed the world with the release of their second studio album ‘Harlequin Dream‘; and about time too. Following the success of a range of singles and EPs, including ‘Mexican Mavis‘ which had the industry speechless, and ‘Rabbit Song‘ which left our ears tingling with looping vocals and melodic harmonies, ‘Harlequin Dream’ has yet to fall short of their strong and well earned reputation.
The album opens with the stunning ‘Southern Sun‘, which warms ears with it’s enticing drum beat and catchy little guitar riffs. This track is totally absorbing, and the infectious melodies is nothing less than a perfect introduction to the album. Following this, listeners are thrown into ‘Old Town Blues‘, a track with more subtle intelligence. On repeated listening, ‘Old Town Blues‘ sings of a type of wisdom we all envy, and Hosking sings “I want to be an old man too” and “I want to be the mother to my kids“. Thickly layered instrumentally, the band demonstrate a kind of integrity I had not expected.
The album continues in the realms of the unexpected, and the predominant theme envelopes anyone listening to the point of comprehension. A wild heart runs through the veins of all of these tracks, and the album paints scenes of escape and of spontaneity, as well as images of a sort of wilderness; with jungles, deserts, and bright-shining suns. ‘Harlequin Dream‘ for instance, the third track from the album, is entirely animalistic and Hosking sings of being “ravenous for more“, while ‘Three Headed Woman‘ parallels dreams with fears. At points you could call it ominous; “I had one of those dreams of a three headed woman“, while beneath it all, it reveals loneliness and regret; “The love that keeps me sane is killing me / I’m sorry for whatever I have done“.
The band have honed in on their style and produce both a tight and wholesome sound as a result, and this is clear just from the consistency in vocals and instrumentation throughout. ‘A Moment’s Grace‘ is a personal favourite of mine, and emotion runs parallel to Hosking’s vocals from start to finish. The opening is a breathtaking and rich piano riff, and the song as a whole is real, and truthful; a terribly brave thing to write about. The sense of resolution is equally profound and concluding; “I am not going to die this way“. ‘End of the Line‘ is another great feature, and there’s a shift in tone here. The scratching, rough acoustic opening, which is littered with soft piano, leans towards a slower and bluesier quality. The conclusion of all this lies with ‘Arrow Flight‘, which appears to work as a perfect conclusion indeed. The lovely rumble of bass, combined with a feeling of relief: “I’ve done all my thinking“, releases a sense of relinquishment of all bitter or resentful emotion. As is sung, “I’m feeling that things are going to be alright, my friend”.
‘Harlequin Dream‘ is stark progression for the band. The production is stronger, the sound is tighter, and while some might label it lacking in originality, it seems these guys have made something diverse enough in it’s own term to call their own. The ever changing shift in instruments and sentiments is not only steady but always apparent, and the wild sound in the core of the album is coherent to this. Needless to say, this is a little masterpiece by a band that is certainly one to watch.
Go and improve your day by listening to the title track ‘Harlequin Dream‘, courtesy of Universal Music Australia, below.