Courtesy of the artist
The sweet pastoral air of Bears' "More Left Out" obscures the story of an iconoclast's isolation.
The sweet pastoral air of Bears' "More Left Out" obscures the story of an iconoclast's isolation. Courtesy of the artist
Song: "More Left Out"
CD: Greater Lakes
Like a carriage trolling down a shady lane where freckled light dances through the swaying boughs, the sweet pastoral air of Bears' "More Left Out" conjures images of simpler times. At its core is a tussle as old as the days — the tug of the group versus the individual's calling. Bears' members acknowledge that the question is rhetorical: "People are people," singer-guitarist Charlie McArthur offers in a tender tenor. "I know most things never change. This is simply one of many things that I find strange."
With a banjo giving way to strings halfway through the song, the blend of bluegrass, folk and chamber-pop feels like heaven and earth, with its delicate sweep balanced by rollicking rhythmic energy. All the music is handled deftly by multi-instrumentalists Craig Ramsey and McArthur. (The duo swells to a sextet live.) The Cleveland band's growing wisdom, developed over the course of three albums in six years, manifests in baroque richness that never feels cluttered.
Perhaps the best thing about the philosophical conceit that drives the song — "Why don't I feel more left out?" — is the admission that the question "never bothered me before today." It's in the nature of a true iconoclast to recognize his own isolation and difference slowly. His drive may be as innate as those who will "end up just like everyone that they will ever know." But the closing phrase's double meaning is well-met. Don't we all end up the same way?