It’s been a busy year for Bear’s Den. A sold out headline UK tour, following the release of their debut EP Agape, as well as support slots for Mumford and Sons and Daughter in the USA. But despite the chaotic lifestyle, the alt-folk three-piece from London still found time to put out their new EP, Without/Within. And it’s pretty good.
Following on from the success of the critically-acclaimed Agape, Without/Within is at times captivating. The EP kicks off with Sahara, a six-minute split-track – Sahara Pt.1 is a slow, slightly moody offering. In a soft voice not too dissimilar from Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, Andrew Davie sings Justin Vernon-like lyrics, almost one-way conversing with the listener. “All my life, I wasn’t honest enough,” he sings.
Yet ironically, it’s the lyrical honesty which draws people to Bear’s Den. Sahara Pt.2 builds gradually, as Davie belts out heartfelt lyrics, “I thought I would never get over you.” The song-writing is touching and the vocals are sound, much like Communion label-mates Ben Howard and Michael Kiwanuka.
Don’t Let The Sun Steal You Away is one of the best tracks on the album – it begins stripped down naked before gradually dressing itself in electric guitars, as Davie sings of the most-common theme on the EP, heartbreak. Writing On The Wall continues with the jazzy electric sound, starting off with a guitar riff which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Foals album. It’s fresh and funky, yet its romantically accusing at the same time: “I shared a secret, one that you could never keep,” he sings.
Sophie and My Lair carry a sombre tone as the EP closes. The former is an innocently jealous track – “You always loved Charlie better,” sings Davie, and you can almost smell the whiskey on his breath as he sits out on the porch late at night writing the song. And again, it’s that honesty that allows the listener to really connect with the music.
Bear’s Den didn’t take any risks with their sophomore release – they made music which they knew their fans loved, music which propelled Agape into the spotlight, and music which earned them recognition from the people in music that matter. Without/Within isn’t hugely adventurous, but it‘s beautifully honest.
Tracks to download: Sahara Pt.1, Sahara Pt.2, Sophie