In the wake of Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear, and Minus The Bear, Bears still manage to stand out. In Simple Machinery, their sophomore release, the Cleveland duo has created a lovely, twangy twee album.

An initial concern of mine was that the record lacks energy, but the latter half picks up. Though they never get too mopey, there’s some Elliott Smith to the vocals, which helps Bears avoid the indie pop pitfall of sounding like music for preschoolers. Ironically, “Subtle Way” may be one of the least subtle tracks, and showcases a pep akin to that of The Boy Least Likely To.

The next song, “Never Again,” sounds like a pop hit from the early ‘60s. Despite their apparent fondness for clapping and organ, Bears have as much in common with the Kinks as with Belle & Sebastian.

At its very worst, Simple Machinery is indie elevator music, the kind of record that could probably be piped into Urban Outfitters. At its best, it’s great. But still, indie pop’s obsession with bears remains unexplained.

In A Word: Sweet [Not as in “Awesome, dude,” but rather, “Mmm, cupcakes.”]

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