Plumbiferous Media

Omni – Minus the Bear

May 27th 2010
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Omni - Minus the BearMinus the Bear
Score: 58

Seattle indie-experimental band Minus the Bear released their fourth LP, Omni, earlier this month. Minus the Bear has enjoyed increased popularity over their last three albums, and it seems as if Omni will be no different. With it, the band takes the approaches of their earlier albums and distills them into the experimentation of Omni. However, while Omni certainly shows creativity and skill on the part of the band, it suffers from a number of serious flaws that prevent it from reaching excellence.

Though neither the sound style nor instrumentation of Omni is terribly original, Minus the Bear does spend quite a lot of time developing the instrumentals. As a result, save for the occasional nauseating stereo effect, Omni progresses quite well, and is both catchy and interesting. The best tracks, including “Secret Country,” have obvious sections, made up of numerous, densely combined, individually excellent lines that flow and crescendo into one another, all the time maintaining a sense of cohesion, while the most that can be said about the worst is that they, for their considerable length, grow somewhat tiresome.

Additionally, while some odd issues do pop up, such as the near-out of tune grating between the bass and guitar on “Summer Angel,” instruments are incredibly rich, sometimes even to a fault, and every instrument, synth generated or otherwise has an uncanny level of depth to its sound. In short, the recording is excellent. A huge amount of care clearly went into configuring the stereo, and the excellent production job very evidently adds quite a bit to the quality of the album.

Lead vocalist Jake Snider’s voice is less a strong or weak element of Minus the Bear’s music than it is simply an element. Snider’s voice is probably best described as “solid” – generic, but not bad. As such, Omni‘s vocal element moves along with the music in a way that neither detracts from nor builds onto the music. Occasional exceptions, where a bit of color and character finds its way into Snider’s voice, do crop up, but they’re rare enough that the vocals are, on the whole, not very important.

Unfortunately, the lyrics of Omni are not quite so harmless. Instead, their range is approximately between inane and irritating. Snider repeats the worst lines five or more times, making their impact on the album as profoundly negative as it possibly could be. For example: the line “When you hear this song / You’ll say you knew all along / You’re into me too” (repeated incessantly on “Excuses”) is only romantic in the cloying, Hallmark-card sense. After the second time it’s sung, it’s become annoying. After the fourth (about five seconds from the end of the track), it’s managed to squander any creativity the instrumentals on that track displayed.

Omni is clearly not a perfect album. Issues, primarily lyrical, overshadow much that is good on Omni, to enough of an extent that the end result is more mediocre than excellent. Still, it’s easy to see this album as gaining quite a bit of popularity, perhaps most fittingly at dance parties, but definitely in other areas as well. There are not all that many areas that truly need to be improved upon for Minus the Bear to make a significantly better sequel to Omni, and we certainly hope they do.

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