The Bipolar Bears‘ eponymous debut LP is as charming and delightful as the band’s designation and album art. Balancing alternative angst with bright and catchy synth-pop, the album manages to unite influences as far apart as Pavement and the Bee Gees. Also lending to its distinctiveness is a noticeable rotation of lead vocal responsibilities. With three participating songwriters, The Bipolar Bears comprises varying perspectives and personalities that come together in a nonetheless cohesive result. Guitarist Daniel St. Clair’s lucid voice showcases a powerful range that encapsulates the record’s mood with the opener, “The Great Diaspora,” and in highlights throughout. Bassist Devin Hanley adds a satisfyingly rugged, Pixies-remniscent flavor amongst the smoother calls of the other vocalists. His attitude on “Hardcore Softcore” (and on the rest of his leads) shakes the album’s buoyancy with just the right amount of grungy disheartenment: “Oh why, didn’t even want to try/ Sick to my stomach, you’re the worm in the apple of my eye.” Caleb Holland, who largely defines the band’s sound with his keyboard and saxophone contributions, provides a nasally but crooning sweetness in a handful of tracks, including the record’s climax, “This Used to be the Sun.” Though without any frontman responsibilities, David Guthrie drives the album’s momentum and energy with thick and succinct drumming.
It is thus fitting that they diagnose themselves bipolar: each member’s distinguished musical characteristics take place of the others throughout the performance. The record finds consistency, however, in vehement instrumental delivery, soaring lead vocals and harmonies, and obscure yet relatable lyrics. A neat but flexible production accommodates the Bears’ fluctuation between clean and raw—all-in-all, it is a substantial album that shows promise of a significant career, should they keep up with this execution.
Here is the music video for the first single, “I Want You,” and below it a live performance of the appropriately titled closer, “Theme”—both led by St. Clair. The full album is available through their website and iTunes.