She Bears‘ I Found Myself Asleep is an excellent album that’s hard to pin down. The songs have the detailed, interlocking flourishes of Grizzly Bear-esque indie pop, but they are often overrun with supercharged drumming and distorted guitar. Even when this happens, the vocals remain peculiarly affected: they’re yearning, but not yelpy in the least. They’re not especially high, but they’re not especially low, either.
The vocal melodies have the long, drawn-out notes of morose singers, but the melodies aren’t the depressing ones of The Cure. The lyrics are depressing at times, but the melodies don’t sound that depressing. The songs retain instead a feeling of wide-eyed loss: an optimism that gets more muted with harsh colors of reality with every passing song. Occasional bursts of euphoria bust out of the downwardly morose proceeings: sometimes for a piano riff, sometimes for a whole song.
Grandaddy would have liked to tour with She Bears, because the bands have similar “parts murky/parts pristine” recording styles. But She Bears doesn’t sound like Grandaddy that much; it’s just the closest marker I could think of in my extensive music-listening comparatives.
In short, She Bears’ I Found Myself Asleep is totally original and thoroughly fascinating. Appropriating things found everywhere else, they’ve crafted the parts together into a batch of songs that is mesmerizing, thrilling and engrossing.
“Winter” puts a song on the back of a jaunty, saloon-style piano riff, then fills it out with maxed-out drums and big guitars. But because of the way it’s mixed, it doesn’t feel like a rock song. Instead, it’s the loudest indie-pop song in the world.
“What Morning Brings” stomps through its existence, but without the anger usually reserved for staccato riffs and thudding drums. This is definitely because of the upbeat piano and circus-style synths dancing through the tune.
“Surely This Time” features an egg shaker (or something similar) and the most desperate vocal line of the bunch. The piano and the vocals again save this from being a rock song. The theme runs throughout: She Bears is the loudest rock band in the world that I can’t listen to as a rock band. Even as “Found Myself Asleep” pounds its way through (from the very beginning!), I still chill to this. I put it on when I’m about to go to sleep.
This is no dig to the power of the album; “Planes” is emotionally gripping, while “Signals” and the intro to “The Misery of Sainthood” are beautiful. The rest of “The Misery of Sainthood” rocks out, to the envy of similar bands. “Victim of Circumstance” must have three or four distortion pedals happening at the same time.
What’s even more fascinating is that this isn’t simply a collection of tunes; if it were, this review would have been really easy to write. This review has taken forever because the songs are so perfectly meshed into each other. The peculiar mood that I explained at the beginning permeates the entirety of I Found Myself Asleep. It’s a thorough album that doesn’t disappoint in any way. I’ve never heard anything quite like She Bears, and that’s nothing but a compliment in this case. It means they occupy a space in my music library and heart that no one else can fill. Highly recommended.