Hot Chip backup vocalist and synthesizer-er Joe Goddard started The 2 Bears with Raf Rundell in 2009. Their debut, Be Strong, offers a unique variety of styles ranging from dance to pop to country, all segued by the subtlest of transitions. It’s an impressive balancing act, one which maintains the attention of the listener without overwhelming with gaudy politics or elaborate crescendos.
This record’s strengths lie in its two singles, “Work” and “Bear Hug.” The former reveals Goddard’s ability with the keys, pounding away with an optimistic hook and hackle; “We gonna work / Work harder / For each other / For the future.”
The Bears play catch from verse to chorus and back, allowing Rundell some time to shine in this song, but his true talent is in his habitual talk-singing, featured most prominently on my favorite track, which — you may have guessed — is “Bear Hug.” It’s as trance as dance can be, and so hypnotic, it’s addictive. My library counted this song played 75 times – the numerous remixes omitted – but this infectious minimalism isn’t for everyone; see for yourself in the video below.
For its riotous first act, Be Strong is remarkably cynical in the late game. Contemplations of mortality, regret and the pursuits of the heart season the back half, and although the content feels less prime, the playful sincerity of The 2 Bears serves to fill out the raw bits.
Be Strong holds the rather unremarkable status of being my favorite record of 2012; however, I hold some confidence that come December, I’ll still be happy to have a “Bear Hug.”