Bear In Town


For their fourth album, Bear In Town, indie avant-pop supergroup Spirit Fest made a virtue of distance, with group members split across Europe, and recording sessions taking place after a brief 2021 tour of Europe. The six songs on this album illuminate different aspects of the transnational quintet's character -- lovely, heart-rending pop songs; melancholy chants; the joys of simple repetition -- with the group's guitar pop tended by gentle flourishes of piano and electronics. Some of those flourishes were spirited onto Bear In Town across the waves, with Mat Fowler (Bons, Jam Money) contributing from Britain, while the body of the music was recorded in a small apartment studio in Munich by the other members of Spirit Fest: Saya and Ueno (Tenniscoats), Markus Acher (The Notwist) and Cico Beck (Joasinho, Aloa Input). Bear In Town is concise and powerful, the infectious joy of the spirit communicated, beautifully, by melodies that balance the heartfelt with the melancholy. It's all the more impressive given this material was put down live in the studio, with a few vocal overdubs. The depth of feeling at the core of Spirit Fest's music is evident from the opening notes of Bear In Town. "Kou-Kou Land," the first song on the album, recalls several earlier Tenniscoats songs in the way the musicians weave gentle complexity around a simple, repeated chant. "Lost & Found" revolves around a delightful descending chord change that breaks up the swaying, folksy verses, gorgeous electronic whirrs and purring winds floating through the song. The following "In Our House" possesses such sweet sadness, it's one of Spirit Fest's most moving songs yet. "Like A Plane" repurposes a song that Markus Acher originally wrote and recorded for his solo EP of the same title, released on a 2022 10" on Morr Music. The original was a gentle, introverted lament, but the version on Bear In Town has a widescreen tenderness, its melancholy framed by raindrop piano. The album concludes with two moments of playful splendor, the bossa-inflected "Hill Blo," and the driving title track, both led by Saya, who is in stunning voice on this album; on "Bear In Town," her awestruck wonder perfectly captures the sense of possibility in the song's capacious chords. Like the rest of the album, it's full of kindness, rich with psych-pop splendor -- a balm for troubled times.