In this week's Scene, Cream captain D. Patrick Rodgers and I review a few local releases, including new efforts by The Paperhead and Casa Castile. (If you have an actual print edition, see if you can find the secret message that reveals what we really think of these records.) My portion of the diggability round-up covers The Little Bear's new EP, Bridges. That's below. Up above, the video for the closing track, "Puppy Love," which contains a slippery guitar lick that reminds me of this, hence the thing I say at the end.
By The Little Bear (Plastic 350 Records)
Last year, The Little Bear released a split cassette EP called Sexttape with PUJOL, one of Infinity Cat Records' mainstay bands. Set against PUJOL's grainy, punky folk jams — and Infinity Cat's larger roster of rowdy, basement-party rockers — The Little Bear's understated songs felt a little out of place. So Infinity Cat created a new imprint just for them — well, for them and label co-founder Robert Ellis Orrall's band, Monkeybowl — called Plastic 350.
The Little Bear's newest EP, Bridges, sounds considerably more polished than its analog-only predecessor — likely a nod to the interest the band has garnered from some pretty big corners of the A&R world, where spray-painted tape cases are a less common sight. On the title track, singer and songwriter Claire Guerreso — who's got the kind of voice that can turn a clattering club into a vacuum-sealed listening chamber in the matter of a few verses — delivers a disarming tale of "the love between children, and what it can do."
If that sounds like such an uncool topic for a song, well, Guerreso is refreshingly unabashed in her songwriting, and is as uninterested in pretense as she is unafraid to risk sentimentality. But if you want cool, The Little Bear can do that too, though with their own bent. There's a lilt to "Coldest Cloud" that will connect with fans of atmospheric indie rock a la Cortney Tidwell, but Guerreso twirls her vocals in a way that at times lands more like Blige than Bjork.
If anything, Bridges doesn't quite capture the supple, interlocked playing of the band's live performances — oddly enough, the hissy, lo-fi cassette release does a better job of that — but it is a compelling document of a singer who's hard to corner, leading a group that sounds just as at home covering folk staples like "This Little Light of Mine" as they do working up R&B-laced pop, engaging in playful Lindsay Buckingham-isms and grooving achy, soulful ballads.