Where do I start?? This record is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. But before we get into that, would you indulge me for a minute? When I discussed my Top 50 Albums of 2016, I mentioned the magnitude of records I listened to and how, despite that number, I was sure quite a few albums I would love slipped through the cracks, giving me the perpetual mindset that my favorite artist could be out there somewhere waiting to be found. Bjéar's self titled debut is confirmation that my concern is real, as this album would have most likely fallen by the wayside, but instead is something I can confidently say will be with me all year.
Bjéar is the group project from Adelaide, AU musician Brae McKee, who wrote, arranged, and curated the record, while also playing a handful of instruments as well providing the vocals on a few tracks; so if there's any praise to be given (THERE IS), you know who to start with. The first thing I noticed was how the record's approach is equal parts grandiose and tempered (think San Fermin "Sonsick"// Seryn "Our Love"// Temper Trap "Soldier On"), coupling the serene with the spectacular, which you'll get to experience immediately as the first track provides just that. Even when pursued by veteran artists, the hunt for this type of balance can often make for an uneven listen, but at no point do you feel that here. This record is the work of someone who is in complete control of their vision, and the execution in creating that vision is done carefully and passionately, creating a sweeping, dreamlike experience.
There's so much to love here and the atmosphere they built is what sits atop that list. The flow of Bjéar has it playing like one long piece, the songs acting like movements as they transition seamlessly into one another (just listen to the strings at the end of "Nell" carry into the closer "Tuolumne;" praise BE). Sonically complex, the record commands your attention, but once in it allows you to drift a bit, which I really enjoyed. The acoustics bring warmth, the horns add fullness, and the strings complete the wall of sound, adding depth and emotion. The single, "Firefall," is still my favorite track. It's also the only one that feels like it can be removed (which might be a result of hearing it by itself so much); I can't picture the other songs without wanting them to connect with the ones surrounding it. The vocals are split between Brae and Dan White, whose two distinctive styles blend beautifully but also help to achieve different atmospheres. Where one provides a more solemn, tender sound, like that of James Vincent McMorrow or Justin Vernon, the other tends to carry a heaviness, tonally it feels like the combination of King Charles and Jeremy Loops.
Bjéar is one of those records that imprints itself into you, your mind, your heart, your being. There's a rawness to it that makes it feel natural, warm. It's the feeling of driving along the coast during a great day, or staring up at the starry sky on a clear night. It feels right. It gives you a sense of peace, a moment of clarity. This record came out of nowhere burrowed itself into me deeper with each listen. Whether it's the rousing "Washington" or the all consuming elegance in the one-two punch of "Big Sky" into "Hymn," it captures the feeling I find myself craving but not often do I find it. With so many moving parts, you'd be forgiving if there were a few misses, but the controlled chaos when the album goes after fireworks are just as precise as the quiet moments. I love it. No matter how you feel about the album the first time around stick with it, I promise you'll love it before long.
The record will be released on January 28th and will be available on all streaming devices as well as for purchase on iTunes. To preorder the record, CLICK HERE!