Monday, April 19, 2010

OMNI Review

Since the release of their 2002 LP "Highly Refined Pirates", Minus The Bear have been providing mellow tunes riddled with lyrics that inadvertently make you feel bad about your sex life. Indeed, a good amount of the groups writing consists of shameless sexuality and tales of the lavish party life. Yet, they're never labeled pretentious despite the overtly flashy tales that they tell throughout each smooth song. Perhaps it's the style in which they do this. With their ability to produce each seamlessly flowing record with the up-most production value, they've consistently pumped out successful album after successful album. Not once have they come up short in their previous efforts, and with their newest creation "OMNI", they surely don't stumble in their musical stride.

Perhaps "OMNI"'s greatest strength and weakness is its utilization of synth to keep the song flowing at a steady pace. During the course of the record, there are some great uses of it; keeping the track flowing smoothly and maintaining a catchy, rhythmic tune -- but in other situations it falls flat, feeling bland and even overused by the end. On the opening track, "My Time", the bass is barely present among the overpowering synth pattern at play and the guitar is all but absent. Not to suggest that there isn't some groovy guitar work on the record, though. On "Summer Angel", which will certainly be on everyone's summer playlist this year, the wonderful guitar blends wonderfully with Jake Snyder's clean vocals. This is definitely one of the best tracks on the record, capturing the sound that MTB has performed so well in the past. On the same note, the final minutes of "Into The Mirror" are absolutely wonderful with its superb guitar and a small guest appearance which pleasantly adds to the song overall. However, that doesn't take away from the major gap where prominent guitar would normally be heard. It could easily be criticized for just that -- and in some cases I could agree with it. Many of the songs can feel somewhat boring with nothing but synth to please the ears. Minus The Bear have never been a very "deep" band in terms of lyrical styles, but they have always provided wonderful music to backdrop said songwriting. Despite a few dragging moments here and there, they mostly do this again on "OMNI", though not quite to the effect that will undoubtedly be expected.

Jake Snyder returns with his ever-crisp vocals here and uses them to full effect. He easily hits those high notes and shifts back to his smooth tone that always appeases the ears. It could easily be said that he holds one of the most fitting voices in the indie genre. He never fails to move perfectly with the rhythm of the song and accentuate the mood, whether it is the romantically charged numbers like "Thief", or the more somber tracks like "Hold Me Down". The tone that's constant throughout the record maintains a smooth vibe and contributes greatly to "OMNI"'s sound overall.

On the flip-side of that, one of the major setbacks of the album is the song lengths. With choruses being repeated several times on tracks like "Animal Backwards" it can become a bit drab after a few listens. The album is rather lengthy at 49 minutes over 10 tracks. Yet, contradictory to that, it doesn't quite feel that long when you're simply relaxing and taking in the music. It can drag at some points, but it doesn't necessarily take too big of a shot at the album's merit.

As the conclusion and longest track of the record we have "Fooled By The Night". The ever-present synth returns once again to assist Snyder in telling another lustful story about the night life. Everything that worked well on the last nine tracks returns again to make a solid end to the album. And although it suffers from the repetition that I mentioned earlier, it is still one of the better tracks of the record. The vocals are smooth as ever and work great with the story being told. Not surprisingly, Snyder tells another superb tale of the apparently several women he's encountered.

There isn't one word that encompasses what Minus The Bear has to offer. They strive to make unique records while somehow always revolving around the same subject matter. Perhaps that's what makes them so engaging, maybe it's their tranquil music, or how they consistently excel with their lascivious songwriting. It could very well be that no matter who you are, you'll find something to enjoy about them. For "OMNI", there's the sometimes very well executed synth, Jake Snyder's appropriate voice, impressive musicianship sprinkled throughout, and of course the cleverly sexual lyrics. Appreciate one aspect, or appreciate them all, you'll surely find something to enjoy in Minus The Bear's latest effort.

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