Boy & Bear - Harlequin Dream

There are a lot of things about Australia that are underrated by the rest of the world. For instance their ability to make great movies is often overlooked. Their natural beauties, including but not limited to, Kylie Minogue, the outback, and ocean life often take precedence in our minds. If one thinks of Australian music you probably gravitate toward bands whose guitarist dresses like a schoolboy, that sing about vegemite sandwiches with hippy trailheads full of zombies, or a high school girl singing about a Major League Baseball team.

Now, there is a beacon of change. It is a band that radiates their sound to the world, not in the form of some muted Sputnik-like ping, but in a colorful broad stroke of musical beauty. Boy & Bear radiates all that is and can be good with Harlequin Dream.

The album, released via Island Records/Universal Music Australia, oh boo hiss all you want, but this might quite possibly be the best thing a big label has done in some time. The eleven tracks are organic and fresh while never becoming stagnant or repetitious. Sure, the record is front heavy, especially opening with their glorious single “Southern Sun,” but the smooth finish found by this quintet touches on more than a band striving for commercial success. There are gems on the backend such as the love story “Real Estate” and the brilliant closer “Arrow Flight.”

But then there are few glaring questions I had to ask myself. Like should we be worried about the Van Morrison-y riff of “Old Town Blues?” Try to un-hear that one. Or how about very Black Keys-ian vibe of the title track? Well just after it turns Bee Gees, before it glides on the best John Helliwell all doubts are vanquished. This is a band that subtly flexes their musical muscles with warm vocals and dreamy instrumentals. I can’t help but be captivated.

In truth, David Hosking, Killian Gavin, David Symes, Tim Hart, and Jonathan Hart are, without a doubt, soaring high on a massively successful album here. Most importantly it succeeds by crafting something identifiable, but never partaking in the trend of trying to be unique-like-everyone-else. Their sound is welcome not only in the world of music but as a product of big label. Eat that One Directions of the world. Australia has a new kid in the game and they could to kick your ass.

GregGreg is a regular contributor and co-founder at Nanobot. He currently lives in Idaho, USA which is nothing like Australia. He mourns the loss of Astrid Peth and wonders where Natalie Imbruglia went.