In 2011, Boy and Bear cemented their place in the Australian music scene with their debut album, Moonfire, and took home five ARIAs to boot, allowing them to vastly expand their fan base from the meagre hipsters who worshipped their EPs to an entire generation of young music lovers who fawned over the band’s Mumford and Sons-like feel.
Fast-forward to August, 2013 and the indie rock-folk band is back with their long-awaited second album, Harlequin Dream, to reassert their dominance in the folk-rock scene. The Sydney-based quintet seems to have refined their sound by moving away from, but still staying faithful to, their folk roots and heading in a direction with a fresh take on rock, with a good measure of blues and a dash of pop thrown into the mix.
If Moonfire was a tale of the musings of the heart, with lyrics like “you took my only one, when I only wanted love/ when I only wanted love”, then Harlequin Dream is but a rare glimpse into the depths of the sub-conscious and boldly asks the question “did you ever find that carcass of your dreams?”
The opening track of ‘Southern Sun’, which was described by singer and songwriter David Hosking as “the creative process and that moment of inspiration where everything comes together”, immediately sets a nostalgic tone for the first half of the album with its Fleetwood Mac meets Band of Horses style of rock.
“I was lucid and conscious and hovering like a firefly” laments Hosking in between the highly-addictive guitar riffs that take you on a journey through an obscure and hazy dreamscape.
The head-nodding bass and drum beats of ‘Old Time Blues’ and the saxophone solo in ‘Harlequin Dream’ showcase Boy and Bear’s versatility in producing a sound that transports you to the golden era of California folk-rock, interspersed with elements of jazz that came to define East- Coast American music.
Hosking’s unique vocals, which simultaneously bleeds of sorrow and joy, allows Boy and Bear to stand out from its counterparts in the ever-growing collection of indie folk-rock bands.
The daringly blunt guitar solo in ‘Three Headed Woman’, and the beautifully apt mention of a “cocaine footprint” in ‘Bridges’ concludes the dreamscape wandering to give us a soothing respite in ‘A Moment’s Grace’.
The song breaks from the rock vibe to give you a softer, more contemplative sound that makes you stop and become aware of your surroundings before returning to the start of your journey.
‘End of the Line’ soon picks you up with its upbeat and joyous mel- ody and takes you on a different path in the second half of the album, all the while staying true to the nostalgia with ‘Back Down the Black’.
‘Real Estate’ and ‘Stranger’ pay tribute to the blues-rock legends of decades past before finishing up with the easy-going acoustics and crisp drum beats of ‘Arrow Flight’, which would not at all be out of place on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.
Boy and Bear manages to please old fans and win over new ones by showing that an evolution of sound does not necessarily mean a break from one’s roots. These home-grown heroes can only go up and it will be exciting to see what surreal journey they in store for us in the future.