If Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens and Wilco had a sordid love-child, you’d have Seabear’s sophomore album, We Built a Fire. The melodic virtuosity is definitely a welcome change to the drab tunes haunting the indie scene today. Although the lyrics are slightly repetitive, the hypnotic rhythms more than make up for it, transporting the listener to a world void of the 9-to-5 mundane.
Icecaps cover more than three-quarters of Greenland; meanwhile in Iceland ‘summers are surprisingly warm and winters are not as cold as you might expect,’ according to the Icelandic Tourist Board. Surely the simple explanation is that there was a monumental mix up by the people who name islands. (The notion they exchanged names to fool invaders is an urban myth.) Still, it isn’t unexpected to discover that climate and the country’s predominately rural living conditions and the intensity of the landscape play an important thematic role for its inhabitants, specifically for its artistic community.
Although recorded in an Icelandic basement -- an environment one can only assume to be cold, cold, cold -- We Built a Fire sounds tailor-made for the spring months, where wintry weather and warmer temperatures wrestle each other for control. Living so close to the North Pole has left its mark on the band, resulting in a number of hushed, atmospheric ballads with telling titles like “Fire Dies Down” and “Cold Summer. ” But there’s a sense of summery energy here, too, and both extremes seem to draw strength from one another, with the ballads thrown into a starker, homespun light against their livelier counterparts.
Seabear has all the right stuff. The band comes from Iceland, a place that thus far has maintained a solid track record of crossover music acts (including Björk and Sigur Rós, in case you somehow forgot). Cute, fashionable, and playing a popular brand of intricately constructed, hush-hush, stateside-inspired folk-pop, Seabear seemingly can’t go wrong.