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Austin’s Golden Bear has been quietly releasing sterling guitar pop records for several years now, with nary a ripple on the radar of the hipster faithful. Their loss, frankly – as Alive proves, the band is on an upward creative swing. This third LP eases up on the louder aspects of the group’s sound – Golden Bear sounds less like a psychedelic Cheap Trick than it did in its early days. Alive instead echoes the best work of the Elephant 6 crowd – tuneful, dreamy, with an edge of weirdness that feels genuinely eccentric, rather than forced. Tunes like “Wait For the Signal,” “Promise Not to Tell” and “Borrowed Beginnings” evince a sense of singalong pop songcraft that bespeaks a mature band coming into its own, rather than aping its influences. Alive isn’t quite the grand statement of which Golden Bear is clearly capable, but it’s surely the manifesto that precedes it.
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