Five-time ARIA award winners Boy & Bear are a tight live outfit. Harnessing this very asset, the band recorded their third and highly-anticipated album, Limit of Love, live and straight to tape.
Under the watchful and mentoring eye of esteemed producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Kaiser Chiefs), the boys set up recording residency at Peter Gabriel’s inspirational Real World Studio in the UK to craft a record bristling with live energy and integrity.
With the end of year holidays just around the corner, our minds turn to getting that all important road trip playlist right, and Limit of Love would be a welcome addition alongside 2011’s breakout debut Moonfire in our overstuffed gloveboxes this summer.
The self-titled opener sets the tone with snaking rhythms and silky harmonies. Frontman Dave Hosking’s distinctive languid lullaby vocals play out over a soaring combo of funky bass-lines (courtesy of bassist Dave Symes) and popcorn drum beats. The first single off the album, ‘Walk The Wire’ is bounding and full of folk-rock energy. With sweet little guitar solos and synths reminiscent of the 80s, Hosking’s contradicting vocals – with its usual melancholic tone – somehow works well with the overall upbeat tempo.
Jon Hart’s gentle keys introduce ‘Where’d You Go’. “I heard your voice just the other day on the radio”, Hosking croons in a lazy folk falsetto, “All the wonder couldn’t wake you from a slumber so slow.” The airy delivery carries over into the chorus of ‘Hollow Ground’. The typical theme of stubbornness is reignited in the lethargic refrain “drop all your ammo down”, a la Harlequin Dream’s ‘Bridges’. Guitarist Killian Gavin’s guitar solo erupts, as per usual, in the shifting tail-end.
Drummer Tim Hart’s steady rhythms are easy to bop to, matching the gentle but quietly dark thump of the bass in the moody ‘Showdown’. Mopey choral backing organically layered over the instruments gives the song a richness that would be otherwise quashed in a traditional recording environment. The well documented process is unfortunately irrelevant to the listening, and actually, you wouldn’t really even be able to tell (which could be viewed as a compliment).
We change pace with ‘A Thousand Faces’. A cacophony of driving riffs (similar to ‘Walk The Wire’) and remix-y synth sounds. The distinctive 80s feel carries into the glorious pop solo. ‘Man Alone’ is intricate and melodic and offers up an anthem to the sort of struggles of the heart we all know too well. Hosking explores his physical exhaustion (almost directly quoting himself in 2013’s ‘Back Down The Black’ with “as my body aches”) and mental tiredness (“trying to find your heart in all those hopeless faces”). The collective self-esteem struggles are kept afloat over a poppy scale-esque keyboard score.
Don’t be fooled by the lilting intro to ‘Just Dumb’, because the song finds its lazy groove mid-way through. A funky 70s vibe now, as Hosking almost cheekily croons “maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong” over Gavin’s jangly disco riff and Hart’s stuttering percussion. ‘Fox Hole’ closes the album. Hosking’s voice is obviously huskier from the continuous singing, but retains his usual level of tired talent.
This album captures a band at the height of their powers, both as live performers and collective composers this time around. Full of the same friendly folk-rock vibes that catapulted them to local fame four years ago, Limit of Love is a solid third offering from Boy & Bear. From the studio to the stage, these tracks will make the transition seamlessly. They already have.
Limit of Love is out tomorrow, October 9th, via Universal Music Australia.
For tour dates and tickets, head to http://www.boyandbear.com.