[Slumberland; 2011]

Though the term indie can include broad sounds, ranging from Flying Lotus to Joanna Newsom, some groups have a sound that exudes everything that indie has traditionally meant over the last twenty years. Jangling guitars, lo-fi recording, bells and horns, twee vocals — Gold-Bears has it all. Coming off like an American Los Campesinos! or a more-legit Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (who are, after-all, their label-mates), Gold-Bears will find an easy home with anyone who liked indie rock in the 90s or anyone who was cool with Death Cab before Transatlanticism – that is, Are You Falling In Love? is a perfect album for music writers. It is just hard to say if there is much of an audience for Are You Falling In Love? with the general public.

As I mentioned before, Los Campesinos! comes to mind throughout the album, with the exuberant boy-girl vocals and “ba ba ba ba”‘s on “All Those Years” and the horn-drenched conclusion of standout track “Xmas Song.” The comparisons go beyond the recording elements, though, and stretch to the confessional lyrics that Jeremy Underwood strews across Are You Falling In Love?: “Xmas Song” begins with the setup “last night after sex,” the title-track opens with an equally provocative “fuck my life/sent in a text last night,” and “Besides You” is built around a series of memories with the specific year of their occurrence. Also, there is the entirety of “In This City, I’m Invisible.” But, for all this personal storytelling, Gold-Bears doesn’t have the gift with words that someone like Gareth Campesinos or Ben Gibbard have, and while there are lyrics that stand out, not many are memorable.

Still, it is the sonic elements of Are Your Falling In Love? that people will recall the best. Though the songs tend to drift into the same, everyone playing frantically mode, the album has its share of curveballs. Album closer “Yeah, Tonight” sounds like a band playing next-door (or in a memory), until three minutes in, when all of sudden Underwood’s voice is right next to your ear, like he has crept up behind you to telegraph the bands next move: “and then the drums kick in.” Suddenly, the album’s great reveal exposes itself to leave the listener on the highest of highs, a sentiment that will keep most coming back and revisiting the record. “Besides You” also adds to the record’s staying power, breaking free from the album’s similarly structured, up-beat (and all quite good) anthems to take a rare aside moment, where Underwood turns down the other instruments to let his open-heart words leap out of the speakers. The track is direct and sad and introspective; and makes the album feel complete. And while nothing about this is particularly fashionable or revolutionary, it is hard to imagine the indie community turning their back on Gold-Bears, as they are simply too easy to like. Sure, there might not be a built-in audience for this kind of music, but once discovered, Are You Falling In Love? is a difficult record to dismiss, or forget.