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Dramatic, epic, and exquisite are the words that come to mind after hearing Andrew Belle’s sophomore release ‘Black Bear’. There is more to this album than meets the ear and just categorizing it in the “singer/songwriter” genre doesn’t do the album justice, as the Chicago singer takes his music to a new level with this new entry. Adding the genres of sub pop, and synth gaze would be a better description.
Released August 20th, ‘Black Bear’ is an eleven track album that dramatically differs from Belles’ debut album ‘The Ladder’, where he used live instruments such as the acoustic guitars, banjos, and piano chords. And many of the songs from The Ladder were heard on TV shows such as “The Real World,” “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Pretty Little Liars,” and focused more on Belle thinking about his relationships. However, much has changed in four years, and Belle has gone in a completely different route. He has grown and is a married man now, and ‘Black Bear’ reflects his coming of age and new maturity level with its electronic sound, as it focuses on his new emotional and spiritual levels that he has ascended to. Where the songs on his previous record were fit to soundtrack TV shows, the songs on ‘Black Bear’ ought to be featured on movie soundtracks, particularly those of dark and epic films.
Speaking about the new record in an interview with Noisetrade, about the theme of his album, Belle described it as “the most consistent and overarching theme found in this album is that of a God that pursues a man until he inevitably succumbs to his persistence.” On his website, Belle also referred to an excerpt from Clive Staples Lewis’s 1955 autobiography, Surprised by Joy concerning the album’s theme: “The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice. I became aware that I was holding something at bay, or shutting something out. I could open the door or keep it shut. I chose to open. I say, “I chose,” yet it did not really seem possible to do the opposite.”
While there is a dramatic difference sound wise, Belle’s vocals and lyrics are just as meaningful as they were four years ago, perhaps even more so. In the past his music and vocals have been compared to the likes of Coldplay, The Fray, John Mayer and Mat Kearney and that still stands. ‘Black Bear’ has the sound and feel of a Coldplay album but also contains the soulfulness of The Fray and John Mayer albums.
The album doesn’t break in its continuity and produces one hit after another with each song. The songs “Dark Matter”and “Pieces” stand out. “Dark Matter” is begins the album with its dreamy sequences and Belle’s whispers. “Pieces” starts off slow but speeds up with Belle singing the chorus against electronic drums and bass. The song “Santa Fe” might at first listen be an interruption to the flow but it fits right in and brilliantly fuses jazz and electronica together in an upbeat tempo that will make listeners want to dance the night away.
Overall, Andrew Belle has successfully brought maturity and innovation to his sophomoric release that has a staying power. Not only is ‘Black Bear’ a great listen, it continues to grow and get even better each time you turn it on.
Image credit: Andrew Belle homepage