Say whatever you might like about Texas, but the state has an outstanding track record producing top shelf rock bands. The latest export from the Lone Star state, Spacebear, is a tastefully eclectic power trio largely focused on delivering solidly written melodic alt rock numbers, but confident and skilled enough to veer from that course in unpredictable and entertaining ways. The band’s guitar sound is massive and often raucous, but takes frequent melodic and spacey turns ably supported by a flexible rhythm section. The album production renders every detail with an eye towards balance and clarity.
The first song “Without You” careens between blitzkrieg guitar and infectious melodicism. Plaintive, energetic vocals and tasteful use of supporting harmonies underscores the song’s melodic strengths, but the song’s rock and roll heart never beats too deeply below the surface as the guitar erupts for a powerful solo late in the song’s second half. Soft-peddled environmentalism is the subject of “Blue”, referencing Carl Sagan’s famous description of our planet. It’s soft peddled not because the message is diluted, but rather because Spacebear resist ever becoming too strident with their commentary. The band detours off the melodic guitar rock road for “Echoes of Sunday”, but this soars just as high on different wings. The beautifully quasi-classical piano melodies are the lynchpin of the song’s success, but ultimately it’s how seamlessly they incorporate it into their existing sonic template that matters most. Kyle Lanter’s vocals are his best yet on Straight for the Sun.
They ditch the piano and revisit the crunchy groove-based six-string attack of the EP’s earliest tunes for “Electric Sheep”. Sci-fi fans will likely notice the title’s reference and the band has a clear understanding on how to use such references in reverential, yet original, ways. The slightly ominous guitar introducing “Waiting On You” matches Lanter’s melancholy-streaked singing. The minimalist opening gets a surprisingly long build before drums and bass join in – this may prove problematic for some, but others will appreciate the gradual atmospherics. The darker mood continues to hold sway during “Hope’s Gone”, but Spacebear never forgets sweetening the pot with some appealing harmony vocals. The band continues indulging their spacier side with the finale “Constellation” – their penchant for sci-fi imagery returns in full force and it comes off musically as a surprisingly successfully blend of electrified folkie guitars and their customary rock bite.
Straight for the Sun follows a definite design for much of its duration, but this isn’t a band afraid to take chances. Their gambles pay off in big ways because this is an outfit sure of its songwriting vision and possessing ample musical instincts that seldom lead them astray. Spacebear debuts with a stylish and accessible sound that never panders for the listener’s attention but, instead, earns it through creative songwriter and superior playing. This is a band to keep your eye on if you enjoy melodic guitar rock with an imaginative flair.