Who? Austin quintet Golden Bear don't need to fake their indie rock chops; they're living the un-glamorous dream to the utmost. Their 2007 sophomore effort, To the Farthest Star (out this week), was recorded in the guest bedroom of the house occupied by frontman Chris Gregory. In the world of Golden Bear, however, Gregory goes by "Grizzle," which seems appropriately quirky for a band -- also featuring keyboardist Matt Gardiner, drummer Andy McAllister, bassist Brent Pennington, and guitarist/vocalist Jamie Reaves -- that dubbed their sound "Galactic-Forest-Rock" and will be touring outside of Texas for the first time this June.
What's the deal? Golden Bear's signature sound blends Gregory's throaty, honest voice and unpretentious lyrics with a poppy, energetic resonance. To the Farthest Star allows sweet piano interludes to lead into accessible, sing-along lyrics, sometimes culminating in surprisingly pleasing trumpet calls or -- in the title track -- string accents. Shades of a Green-album era Rivers Cuomo come out in Gregory's blissfully hopefully crooning in "Glitter Girls," while a synth-infused sound all their own shine through on "Galaxy Queen." Though the band's sheer energy has been declared Arcade-Fire like, To the Farthest Star ultimately sacrifices the latter's unparalleled crescendos and soaring choruses in favor of an affectionate intimacy with the listener.
Fun Fact: Despite his growing indie street cred, Gregory hasn't quit his day job. As a middle school science teacher, he likes to keep his work and music lives separate: don't expect a Golden Bear concert during recess anytime soon. EMMA LIND
Now Hear This: Golden Bear - "Galaxy Queen" DOWNLOAD MP3
On the Web: Golden Bear at MySpace
Talk: Would you give Golden Bear a passing grade?