REDUX '14: Bear's Den

DC Best of '14: When Mumford and Sons' Ben Lovett calls you "undeniably brilliant," that's not faint praise. And when he signs you to his co-founded label Communion, a new haven of fine musical artistry, that's even better. For U.K. folk/rock trio Bear's Den -- Andrew Davie, Joey Haynes, and Kevin Jones -- that particular label nurturing, a rarity in today biz, has helped produce one of the best and brightest new bands of 2014. Nearly two years ago we put them on the DC RADAR describing their music as a mix of British folk/rock influences with a strong chaser of Americana jangle. And that acoustic slant happily remains the central heartbeat of the band's debut LP Islands.

But after a pair of EP's and countless live performances, Bear's Den and producer Ian Grimble have added an artful depth and sophistication to the trio's sound. An early track of stripped directness, "Above the Clouds of Pompeii" (featured in our original post) has been reworked for Islands and the change, while not radical, emphasizes a sleeker, more full-bodied production. What begins as a guitar and banjo pub/folk melody expands into an anthem of majestic harmonies. brimming with brass and dense orchestration. Stream (and watch) the brilliant game-changer "Elysium" at the Currents page.



Watch: Megan Washington - "Begin Again"

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Megan Washington's particular brand of melodic, dramatically produced (sm)art/pop has found a following in her native Australia though it's been a little difficult to export to these shores -- not that anyone has really made an effort from her Down Under label. A little to pop for the hipsters, not enough hip-hop for the popsters (say that three times quickly). Washington's latest, There There, was oh-so-quietly released digitally this past fall by Decca/Universal with no promotional backing. A shame. One of the album's best tracks, "Begin Again" finds Washington in a more relaxed mood, a stark piano ballad with a simple but compelling melody and the soundtrack to the video's lovely ballet pas de deux.


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It's been something of a quiet year for Winston Yellen, AKA Night Beds. One "new" track last year -- the amazing "Head For The Hills" and then nada. Til now. "Me, Liquor and God" shows that the Beds sitter has been busy redefining and expanding his sound in a serious way. Goodbye chiming, atmospheric guitars, hello bubbling synths and '80s electro-beats. Was liquor or God involved? Who knows? Fortunately, despite the severe production switcheroo, the songwriting stays solid. No word on a full-length yet -- stay tuned. Stream "Head For The Hills" at the Currents page.

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