I love when bands cannot be fit into a genre. When this one arrived in my inbox it said “rocksy, folksy, weird” next to it. After spending some time with this album, I can assure you that it goes way beyond that. There’s rock, there’s folk, there is pop sounds, psychedelia, awesomeness, citrus fruits, and wild animals. Bear Medicine is straight up rad. The band is made up of some gentlemen from Lexington, Kentucky. “The Moon Has Been All My Life” is their first full length album and hopefully not their last because their work is stunning.
Acoustic guitar opens the album–gentle strumming and fingerpicking. Then some cello and electric bass join in and all of the beautiful tones and vibrations go on an adventure together over some mountains, through your dreams, around a graveyard, and then off into the sunset.
“Infestation” prominently features some fantastic things. I will list just a few of them for you.
- a driving kickdrum beat
- gorgeous vocal harmonies
The melody of “Rigor mortis dear” is dirty, rhythmic, but features some feathery woodwind keeping it aloft and shining some sunlight on the burnt earth. “Raise a toast, my dear. Before we all disappear.” This second track features some of the prettiest, darkest lyrics I’ve ever heard.
The vocals of this album are light falsetto, lofty, pretty, gentle. They seem to pull history and meaning from the lyrics. They aren’t just words, they’re real, they’re stories. I love the use of harmony. The vocals are quite distinct from the instrumentals, but both are exquisite.
“Guillotine Valley” gives me chills. It delivers the softest haunting energy. Choral, triumphant, melting. “Big Chief” is another instrumental adventure. I love when bands do this. I absolutely love when they feature instrumental work on an album. It shows that they’re not just a band, they’re musicians. This piece travels, it evolves. It takes you places. I would tell you what kind of places, but I am pretty sure that they are different for each person. “Sevens” and “All You Celestials” deliver glorious, soaring, hopeful messages filled with shadows and mystery, areas for you to find and explore on your own.
These gentlemen are so talented in every way. Honestly, this is one of the coolest, best, most well-rounded albums. It is complicated. The music is complicated. Many instruments take their turns carrying a rhythm, a harmony, a melody. The voices are projective and contemplative. The lyrics wander through concepts of death, illness, darkness, light, the stars, and things that we can’t see. They contemplate, tell, and see but draw no conclusions. This collection of songs is extremely well made. The details have been cared for, wrapped up tightly and professionally, yet it is open, welcoming, and ready for your own interpretation.
Give this album a listen. It was the perfect way to start off my new year. Support these artists, they are of the highest quality. Bonus, if you’re one of the kind who can’t get enough vinyl in their life–you can buy this album on vinyl. I cannot wait for more music from Bear Medicine.