Minus The Bear

Minus The Bear

When the members of Minus the Bear first convened in a dingy practice space in 2001, there were few expectations for the project other than providing a reason for the five drinking buddies to hang out, have a few laughs, and write some idiosyncratic pop songs. Seattle had just closed out a decade of living in a cultural spotlight due to their city’s penchant for loud, earnest, brooding rock music, and the guys in Minus the Bear seemed to take pleasure in writing songs that were the antithesis to the ‘90s heavy-handed big-riff gloom. All the members had done their time pedaling angst and frustration in other music projects, so it seemed to make sense to offset that vitriol with cerebral pop songs. Their debut EP, This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic, with it’s nimble guitar work, observational lyrics, complex hooks, and four-on-the-floor dance beats, proved to be a breath of fresh air in a city that lived under a bank of black clouds nine months out of the year.

Over the course of the next four years, Minus the Bear demonstrated that they were more than just some flashy playful indie pop act. Sure, their first full-length album Highly Refined Pirates still displayed some levity in its aesthetics, as if the band was one-degree removed from the often overly serious indie rock world, but the frivolous elements of the band belied their forward-thinking instrumentation, razor-sharp chops, and forthright lyrical vignettes. Even still, the band were on a mission to shed the remaining vestiges of their whimsy when they released their sophomore album Menos el Oso in the late summer of 2005. The lush, intricate two-handed tapping guitar lines that defined their early work were replaced with glitchy guitar samples and effects pedal manipulations. The big, boomy room sounds of their previous records were ditched in favor of air-tight, in-your-face drum tones. Their melodies took a turn toward minor keys. Even their lyrics seemed to hint that the late night parties and escapes from the city described on their past records were now tainted by some hard life lessons. Minus the Bear had always taken their craft seriously, but Menos el Oso was their first record where the overall tone of the album matched the stern discipline of their musicianship.
It was a bit of a gamble to follow up the buoyant guitar gymnastics of their debut album with a full-length that throbbed with staccato riffs, sepia-toned lyrics, and an almost electronic pulse. But it wound up being a pivotal album in Minus the Bear’s trajectory. Not only did Menos el Oso propel the band to bigger audiences, it set a precedent for the band’s future fearlessness in exploring new sonic frontiers. To commemorate this landmark album, Suicide Squeeze is offering a 10-year anniversary vinyl edition of Menos el Oso. The LP is being repressed in a gatefold jacket with a matte finish and UV gloss. It includes a printed inner sleeve with expanded liner notes about the creation of the record provided by longtime friend of the band Brian Cook (Russian Circles, These Arms Are Snakes) and includes quotes and insights from the members themselves. The 10-year anniversary edition of Menos el Oso has a limited first pressing of three thousand copies (1k on clear vinyl with a green high melt, 1k on yellow marble, and 1k on clear). This is the first time the album is available on colored vinyl and the first time the LP has included a download card. The 10-year anniversary edition of Menos el Oso will be available worldwide from Suicide Squeeze Records on December 4, 2015.

Minus the Bear is Jake Snider (vocals, guitar), David Knudson (guitar), Cory Murchy (bass) and Alex Rose (keyboards, saxophone, vocals, programming).

INVSN (pronounced "invasion") was birthed from the subcultural landscape, imbued with the passionate spirit of hardcore-punk and emboldened by the rich history of rock n' roll. The Swedish band released a couple of records in their native tongue, under the name Invasionen, before deciding to "invade" the rest of the world with their English language debut. This embryonic period allowed them to steadily develop a sound that delivers subversively deliberate pop through a post-punk lens.

INVSN's Invsn embodies elements of Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, lesser known seminal UK band The Sound, early outings from The Cure and modern acts like The XX and Soft Moon, all through the prism of people who loved Black Flag growing up. It's no wonder the band have managed to create something refreshingly new from classic elements of the past: members of INVSN spent time in the tirelessly revered Refused, garage revivalists The (International) Noise Conspiracy and thrashers D.S.-13.

The record was created at Stockholm's Studio Ingrid (formerly Polar Studios), with mixing duties handled by English album producer Nick Launay, whose distinguished credits include INVSN reference points like Public Image Ltd., Nick Cave, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Church. Launay shares mixing credit with Danish producer Jacob Hansen, who has worked with Volbeat since their early demo days.

The transcendent, atmospheric and consistently engaging songs on INVSN's self-titled debut recall the strongest elements of '70's psych and '80s New Wave, with hints of each decade that followed and a forward-thinking vision of the future. The end result is a sound that is at once both timeless and nostalgic. The world doesn't even realize how ready it is for this album. And that's OK. This group of musicians is used to being ahead of their time; they don't plan it that way, they just can't help it.

The creative impulses that have driven the members of INVSN since they began playing music have carried each of them aloft like a mythical muse, often forsaking careerism for the sake of authentic realism. By the time the world realized that frontman Dennis Lyxzén's former band, Refused, had defined a generation, they were gone. In the wake of Refused's three-album career, a multitude of bands traded on much of their innovative sound, attitude and image to gain fame and fortune.

When The Shape of Punk to Come was reissued more than a decade after its initial release, Pitchfork raved about its power and unique mystique. Rock Sound gave it a 10/10. Kerrang! had already put it in their "50 Most Influential Albums of All Time." But when people were catching up to Refused after their split, Lyxzén had moved on, fronting garage rock obsessed art-rock provocateurs The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Rick Rubin, whose resume contains no shortage of icons and innovators, produced (I)NC.'s last two albums and released them through American Recordings. (I)NC. wore their progressive politics on their proverbial sleeves, paving the way for a so-called "Return of Rock" that resulted in huge commercial success for other bands.

After a 12 year run, (I)NC. took a break that became an extended hiatus. Lyxzén played in the power-pop group The Lost Patrol Band. Lyxzén and his friends remain one step ahead, with the stars about to align for the first time between inception and acceptance through INVSN. The members of INVSN came together organically, a group of friends determined to make the type of music they themselves wanted to hear. Lyxzén is joined in INVSN by (I)NC. bandmate Sara Almgren (who has played with the punk band Masshysteri), Andre Sandström (DS-13), Anders Stenberg (who has worked with Swedish pop star LYKKE LI) and their friend Richard Österman. Lyxzén, Sandström and Stenberg have played together since 2004. During (I)NC., this was the fun side project. It eventually just took over, after a few hundred shows and five years of playing together, giving them an edge over newer acts who often sprout out of nowhere and immediately are signed.

"#61" opens the album and reminds listeners that music can be a world-changing force, starting at the individual level. Don't give up on radical politics, on innovative culture, whatever has moved you inside. It's an angry song that rails against the idea of music being relegated to a background playlist or soundtrack to a club. "Vaesterbotten" captures the darkness of the wintery area near where the band calls home, opening sparsely and gradually building up in instrumentation. It's about ending up in a place like "Vaesterbotten," a place criminally underappreciated. "Our Blood" was laid down in one take and milks a few chords to maximum potential; a simple change in bass line or other slight movements altering the mood tremendously. Album closer "Hate" is an anthem for the world's misfits, picked upon outcasts and bullied kids. It's a call to arms to let that energy become empowering.

It's rare that a band sets out to become trailblazers, architects of a new sound or otherwise massively influential and acclaimed. Many are often imitating some sort of formula. Others who do aspire to greatness are often doomed to fail thanks to the limitations of their own creativity, or will flameout after some fleeting commercial success. But like the handful of iconic tastemakers whose legacies have stood the test of time, INVSN is doing it for the right reasons. This will ensure a body of work that will endure, that will continually inspire, striking a special chord around the world, igniting that same fire that caused INVSN's members to make their first noise.

Slow Bird is an American indie rock trio, created in Seattle, Washington during March of 2011. The musical collaboration was conceived by Joshua Dore (guitar), Matthew Street (drums, bass), and Jennae Quisenberry (Fender Rhodes, vocals.) Intensely dynamic, the composition flows with constantly evolving tones and interludes which ascend into pivotal zeniths of emotion. The soaring guitar leads compliment the haunting vocals which constantly cascade into visceral sentiment; submerged with rich bass tones and driving drums. The experience elucidates the audience into full attention, the termination of which leaves the listener plummeting back into tumultuous reality.

Listed by DLIST magazine as one of Seattle's up and coming artists to watch in 2013, Slow Bird is an experience you won't want to miss as their impact deepens across the northwestern music scene.

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