Eliza and the Bear have their biggest disclaimer on their twitter profile: “No one in this band is called Eliza” and it needs reiterating just in case you confused them for one of that popular trend of female fronted acts like Florence + the Machine, Marina and the Diamonds or Betty and the Werewolves. Nope, Eliza and the Bear have no girls, nor bears either it seems (their name comes from a poem by Eleanor Rees). They are James, Callie, Martin, Chris and Paul, hailing from London and creating the kind of genre-bending music which sees them compared to acts like Mumford and Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend, Of Monsters and Men, Kings of Leon and Imagine Dragons.
“Friends” is the current single and it is a joyous folk pop anthem which sets a triumphant exuberant tone and defies anyone to sit still whilst listening to it. This continues into “Where Have You Been” which is all layered harmonies and upbeat brass over a fast tempo summery indie backing track. The track builds and builds, strips away to just the plaintive vocals and then ends with a resounding singalong chorus.
Listening to the album, it feels packed with hit singles and the band have received some high profile plays on Radio 1, but it’s not just that. The music is instant and heartfelt and resounding. “Lion’s Heart”, the track which dominated the airwaves most recently, is a euphoric track which conjures up images of warm summer festivals in green and pleasant fields and then evenings around fires, dancing and enjoying oneself.
I first heard the band via a double A side of “Upon the North” and “The Southern Wild” (the latter sadly not on the album) which seemed like the perfect pair of tracks to introduce me to the band, both catchy in different ways, straddling genres like indie, folk and pop and inviting participation be it dancing or joining with irresistible “ooh oohs” throughout. I’d initially mistaken the tracks for something to do with “Game of Thrones” with the North/South theme and folky vibe, but I soon found there was a lot more to the London based quintet.
“Light it Up” is another surefire festival singalong anthem, joyously assembling drums, brass, guitars, percussion and warm vocals to great success. “It Gets Cold” is similarly brilliant and despite the title, is another warm slice of folk pop which alternates between rousing verse and downbeat but insistent chorus.
Previous buzz track “Make it On My Own” is a darker more brooding affair, all moody and awkward in the chorus, but still catchy and packed with instrumentation. “Oxygen” is similarly moody with haunting instrumentation and cool clicks/claps. “I’m On Your Side” has some soaring orchestration as it brings the standard version of the album to a close but again brings layered emotions minute by minute like a musical rollercoaster ending with the repeated refrain “you can say what you want love, ‘cos I’m on your side…I…” A hidden track (“My Body Was Against Me”) and four bonus tracks on the Deluxe edition continue to show even more breadth and depth.
The album is packed with anthemic moments, some tender and bittersweet, others rousing and triumphant, like “Brother’s Boat” which manages to include both and reminds me of Arcade Fire or Sigur Ros. There’s something achingly beautiful about Eliza and the Bear’s music and across 15 tracks on their eponymous album, they showcase their considerable skill at songwriting and coming together as a band.
“Eliza and the Bear” is available from Friday 8th April on Capitol Records. Download it here:
7-Apr-16 London, Islington Assembly Hall
13-Apr-16 Birmingham, Institute Library
14-Apr-16 Bristol, Thekla
15-Apr-16 Manchester, Academy 3
16-Apr-16 Glasgow, Garage