Minus the Bear – Lost Loves

4 out of 5

Label: Dangerbird

Produced by: Matt Bayles (Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 10), Joe Chiccarelli (3, 8 and 9), Chris Common (Co-Produced, 1, 5 and 6)

As pointed out in the Allmusic review – heck, as pointed out in the album’s liner notes – ‘Lost Loves’ is an amazingly seamless listen considering it’s essentially a B-sides disc.  Yes, if you hadn’t told me it was a compilation, I would’ve absolutely believed it to be something new, and probably have said that it was a welcome return to the more aggressive approach of ‘Planet of Ice,’ merged with some of the slick pop tricks learned from ‘OMNI’ / ‘Infinity Overhead.’  I mean, the comment still works, but it’s interesting that such developed tracks that work together came out of recording sessions that produced albums I do feel are quite different.  Part of the magic is in the sequencing: every MtB album has some bland spots, to me – those silly love songs where Jake Snider says baby one too many times, or the generic ‘I like you do you like me’ tracks the group can seem to toss off with the ease of some finger-tapping and peppy drums – and those bland spots are often sprinkled throughout any given album, such that I sort of have to dig for preferred tracks, but ‘Lost Loves’ is surprisingly strong for the majority of its runtime, both musically and lyrically, only tossing some looser moments our way toward the disc’s end.  I still don’t find Snider a particularly compelling lyricist, but instead of picking apart the malaise of Summer days or the emptiness of glamor, these tales of, yeah, mostly lost love, are tinged with a level of contemplative darkness I don’t often hear on your average MtB track.  And the start of the album is a kick of aggression we haven’t heard since ‘Planet of Ice’ and before: opener ‘Electric Rainbow’ tears apart a fast-paced riff and matching drums; ‘Broken China’ starts with a delicious clash of noise before resolving into another pop-rock hit.  Even the cheesy pop beat of ‘Patiently Waiting’ sounds a bit more original, with chord progressions that feel closer to the inspired joy of an OKGO track (which I consider a good thing) filtered through Snider’s croon.

The album hits a sudden stop on the generic ‘Invented Memory’ and ‘South Side Life,’ as Snider can’t quite hit the high notes and the track fades out before establishing itself… which is frustrating, since the awesome Ely Guerra adds vocals there, but ‘Your Private Sky’ brings back a gutsy riff that leads us into closer ‘The Lucky Ones,’ which, again, sort of sounds like a regular Minus the Bear track, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

So: I liked ‘Infinity Overhead’ but it doesn’t get a lot of repeat play, and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep every time I listened to OMNI.  The tracks on ‘Lost Loves’ might’ve been cut for being too distinctive, in a way, without fleshing into the albums from which they were pulled.  But that strength of identity ends up making the songs work together amazingly well on this compilation.  ‘Loves’ is the best MtB album since ‘Planet of Ice.’

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