Minus the Bear - Infinity Overhead (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Minus the Bear

Infinity Overhead (2012)

Dangerbird Records

Despite their overcast, rainy home base, the music of Seattle, Wash.'s Minus the Bear is tailor-made for summer. It's a bit of a shame that Infinity Overhead, the group's fifth long-player, is being released at the tail end of August, as the bulk of it feels like the soundtrack to a hot June night. At this point in their career, Minus the Bear are reliable professionals, and Infinity Overhead doesn't offer much in the way of surprises, but it manages to capture the essence of the several musical routes they've taken in the past, combining them into a well-rounded, if not absolutely essential listening experience.

Kickstarting the proceedings is "Steel and Blood," one of the most direct pop/rock songs the group has ever penned. If ever a Minus the Bear track had a chance to conquer rock radio, this would be it. It's got all the hallmarks of classic Minus the Bear, twinkling guitar loops and lyrics about making sweet, sweet love intact, but with an accessibility not felt in early works like debut full-length Highly Refined Pirates.

From there, however, Infinity Overhead plays like something of a greatest hits album, touching on many of the styles the group have tried their hand at over the years. The synths of Infinity Overhead's somewhat divisive predecessor OMNI rear their head on many of the album's 10 tracks. On that album, they were trying something new. Sometimes it worked ("Into the Mirror" stands tall amongst the group's best material) and sometimes it didn't (most of the other tracks). On Infinity Overhead, the group integrates the synths into their music much more seamlessly.

Infinity Overhead should contain something for just about anyone who's ever been into a Minus the Bear record. Mid-album standout "Empty Rooms" is a lovelorn, mellow beach jam that wouldn't be out of place on 2005's outstanding Menos El Oso. Even the acoustic guitars featured prominently on the band's aptly named 2008 EP Acoustics make an appearance in the form of "Listing." Dave Knudson's dizzying guitar pyrotechnics, a staple of their early work, make a triumphant return on show-stopping album closer "Cold Company." It's the most energetic song on Infinity Overhead, and arguably the best song Minus the Bear has written since 2005.

So while Infinity Overhead might not reach the same towering heights as the group's first three full-lengths, it is their best album in quite some time, and contains a few barnburners all but guaranteed to become live staples. No matter which era of Minus the Bear tickles your fancy most, if you've ever been a fan, there's something for you on Infinity Overhead.