Ever since the sequencer replaced the guitar as the instrument du jour of indie rock, every band is seemingly in a race to be the modern-day equivalent of New Order. Whether consciously or not, acts like Tanlines, Neon Indian, the Big Pink, Porcelain Raft, Crystal Castles, and Grimes are chasing after the synth-fueled sweet spot Bernard Sumner and crew so often hit, an urgent-cool, experimental mix of pop, punk, and dance that lent the Joy Division offshoot so much allure, style, and credibility. Brooklyn outfit Bear in Heaven is another name to add to that ever-growing pile wannabes: After earning some love for their 2009 sophomore album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth (and sounding especially New Order-ish on standout track “You Do You”), the trio puts a smooth, glowing polish on their electro-noise sound with I Love You, It’s Cool.
Much as Neon Indian’s Era Extraña presented a decided shift away from the hooks of Psychic Chasms, Bear in Heaven has abandoned riff-making in favor of atmosphere and texture. But whereas I Love You, It’s Cool is far less riddled with the kind of soaring melodies found on Beast Rest Forth Mouth, it’s also much more directionless, with track after track caught in a kind of circular, self-obsessed myopia befitting a melodramatic teen’s Tumblr posts. Lyrically, Bear in Heaven wallows endlessly in their own adolescent romanticism, and the music follows suit, hanging like a fog of idle chord structures that build and build but rarely, if ever, move. What results is a gorgeous but static layering of what can only be described as stationary buzz. I Love You, It’s Cool is essentially the musical counterpart of sediment, with even its uptempo dance rhythms falling into inert repetiton.
Perhaps even more problematic is that for the majority of the album, Bear in Heaven sounds positively bored with their own performances; tracks like “Space Remains” and “Noon Moon” find the band detached from the trance-like proceedings rather than being fully immersed in them. Thus, what’s intended to sound transcendent and dreamy ends up rather predictable and cold, leading to a rather alienating listening experience as the group strands their own musicmaking in some limp, emotionless space. With its bright spots marred by detachment, despondency, and meandering, I Love You, It’s Cool fails to deliver on the promise of Beast Rest Forth Mouth, knocking Bear in Heaven back a tier or two in the race for indie electro-pop supremacy.