Getting excited about indie pop albums these days isn't exactly easy to do, so when Seattle five-piece Minus the Bear (the daft name has a kinda rude derivation - look it up) announced they were about to release an odds n' sods compilation, Contact Towers wasn't exactly hitting refresh every 30 seconds.
That said, whilst 'Lost Loves' turns out to be predictably far from game changing, its remastered contents work as a de facto full release and (here's the bonus) contain a minimal amount of the self-indulgent froth which usually blight these exercises. Sounding remarkably like Mutemath throughout, hard to find material going back more than a decade is scrubbed up purposefully, to varying degrees of success. On 'Broken China' for example, the quintet are happy to be full of muscular guitar riffs and quiet-loud dynamics, creating an epic, crunching song that's just waiting for a stadium to be played in. Opener 'Electric Rainbow' is, by contrast, darker and more slight; a lyrical tale of fugitives on the run from the law and who knows who else, peppered by straight ahead chunks of rock n' roll, road music for those who probably prefer to get the bus.
Having had our asses kicked, everyone's ready for a breather. It's at this point that singer Jake Snider attempts to woo, the imploring soul of 'Invented Memory' sounding - whisper it quietly - like early Maroon 5 without the sex. 'Lost Loves' otherwise is short on experimentation, and its major shortcoming is that most of it lacks a specific identity. Perhaps this is due to a some of our misapprehensions: Minus The Bear write music that's multi-faceted but not deliberately complex, not as some would have you believe avalanches of twitchy, mad professor time signatures or soul-baring tales of raw emotion.
All that is a long way of saying that whilst the likes of closer 'The Lucky Ones' and 'Your Private Sky' feel almost indispensable at first, their appeal end up being limited. Played repeatedly, they become increasingly more inert, their inner progginess surfacing, fussy over embellishment, dominant where being more direct would do. Usually these kind of releases are destined for obsessives only, people who'll pay money for the band's hair, fluids and fibres. By escaping that initial constraint, Minus The Bear have managed what many others have not, but 'Lost Loves' is a classic case of broad strokes that lack subtlety and conviction and therefore should be classed as a missed opportunity.
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