Craig Ramsey and Charlie McArthur may go by the ominous moniker Bears
but the duo's hushed, melodically fused vocals recall the intimacy of bedroom recordings. The Cleveland band's lightly nuanced pop is propelled by acoustic guitar and brushed drums, leaving lovelorn (and too often sad-sack) lyrics at the fore. Bears' self-titled album suffers from what was once thought to be a musical impossibility: glockenspiel oversaturation. Those pinging, ringing bells that can light up almost any song, from the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" to nearly every Springsteen song through 1981, float through Bears
' first half, gently but permanently burrowing into your skull. Still, the Bears' bells are not enough to disrupt the beautiful pop sounds that recall Elliott Smith's varied Figure 8
, with waltz tempos, vocal crescendos and deftly picked guitars.