April 27, 2009

Jeremy Enigk / OK Bear

Artist - Jeremy Enigk
Title - OK Bear
Hometown - Seattle, WA
Label - Lewis Hallow Recordings
Street Date - May 12, 2009
RILY - Sunny Day Real Estate, Jeremy Enigk past solo records
The Hits - In like a lion (1-4) and out like a lamb (5-12)
Richter Magnitude Rating Scale - Major

Let me get this out of the way first. I am a long time Sunny Day fan. I own all their records, have seen them countless number of times, and am blessed to have been friends with and played music with a member back in the day. I however lost track of the band in their Fire Theft stage and truthfully only listened to the first solo record by Jeremy. The second record slipped by me and here I am what feels like nearly a lifetime later sitting with the third and yet to be released newest Jeremy Enigk solo record called OK Bear. (an English translation of what he thought were made up Spanish words that didn't mean anything but actually meant ok bear.)

I think for any of us who feel raised on SDRE (and like them) there is an undeniable and instant comfort in hearing Jeremy's voice again riding out the full dynamic range of lullabies and dynamic melodies that surge and crest into enormous crashing choruses. His voice is as strong as ever - especially with the opening tracks "Mind Idea", "Late of Camera", and "Life's too Short" and if you had told me this was a new Sunny Day record, I would probably believe it. Listen to those choruses build and tell me differently. (although for you hardcore fans it is clearly not William on drums - Victor Garcia delivers a more finessed hit rather than atom bomb strikes to the kit) I think back to how my parents felt about hearing John Lennon's voice in a solo capacity and the bliss it gave them as lifelong Beatles fan. I can say I finally understand what they were experiencing.

Lyrically we still have hard to pin down themes but again, any SDRE will know this to be his trademark style with hints of a man on an ongoing spiritual journey without beating you on the head with any outright religious sermons. As a woman who has been quoted in Pitchfork for liking "a little less God in my rock", it should mean something when I say Jeremy's melody choices, song structures, production choices, and sincere vocal performances overshadow anything that screams emoting Christian artist.

The line up for OK Bear features a line up that reflects the fact that it was recorded in Barcelona, Spain so while all songs are still written by Enigk, the players are Spanish and not a parade of A-list American indie rock stars or ex SDRE members ("The musicians include Santi García (producer, guitar), Victor García (drums), Ricky Falkner (producer, bass, guitar, keyboards) and Ramón Rodriguez of the notable Spanish bands Standstill, No More Lies, and Madee" The instrumentation is just shy of epic (the press announcements describe this record as a minimalist rock combo) so while yes, there is just guitar, bass, piano, and drums, there are additional layers of horn, percussion, and xylophone which help to fill out nearly every song. The trick is that as each song moves from verse to chorus they rise and fall, pulse in such extraordinary ways, that even as a more stripped down band with production choices that stray away from trying to be Coldplay, the songs never sound thin or lacking.

OK Bear has moved into my very short list of top 10 records of the year and I think since it made it onto my stereo yesterday I have already listened to this thing a good 5 or 6 times. In fact I can't think of many new records I have decided to really make the effort to sing the praises of this year no less have played back to back more than once. 2009 is looking up.



  1. His last record was excellent as well T. You should check it out. I have been looking forward to OK Bear for sometime now.

  2. I was worried that I wasn't going to like this, but your review makes me want to check it out immediately.

  3. You're right Tracy. There is something special about this record. It is emotionally captivating in some way. It is melancholy yet uplifting at the same time. I am really really digging this one.