If the upcoming Minus the Bear album, Planet of Ice, is anything, it is appropriately named. A collection of cold, distanced compositions, the album certainly conveys a sense of vast, wintery desolation. This serves as an interesting motif, yet it also seems to be somewhat of a detraction from the youthfulness found on their previous works. This general shift was already evident on Menos el Oso, but Planet of Ice seems to take it one step further… and I can’t help but feel a bit conflicted about the subtle transformation.
However, even considering this, the album is still pretty damn good. In fact, it seems to not only get better with each listen, but I also find my initial reservations fading quickly. I mean, it was inevitable that this band would start to mature and why shouldn’t the continuing trend be welcomed? Of course, part of me will always miss song titles like “Hey! Is That a Ninja Up There?” or “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse”, but this new tone and ongoing maturation seems to allow Minus the Bear to more fully explore influences that had been previously bubbling below the surface. And indeed the new album contains a decidedly prog-rock edge to it, perhaps most evident on the nearly nine minute closer “Lotus”, but more obviously present throughout Planet of Ice than on any prior release.
Though for all the noticeable differences, this is still a Minus the Bear record. The consistently fantastic guitar work of David Knudson is back in full force, as are the uncanny pop sensibilities, distinctive guitar tones, and Jake Snider’s emotive vocals. While Snider’s vocal capabilities are criticized at times, I’ve always found him more than adequate on Highly Refined Pirates or anything beyond, and for much of Planet of Ice he seems to be at his absolute best.
I’m a bit surprised at the songs that have been chosen to promote the album so far… “Dr L’Ling” and “Throwin’ Shapes” are pretty cool, but I think both of these tracks are much better. “Double Vision Quest”, in particular, seems to embody all of Minus the Bear’s new and recurring strengths present on Planet of Ice.
Download: Minus the Bear – Burying Luck
Download: Minus the Bear – Double Vision Quest
Buy: Planet of Ice comes out on August 21st. It is not yet available for pre-order, but keep your eyes on Suicide Squeeze Records for more details.