TDP Review: Andrew Belle- “Black Bear”

For fans of: Mat Kearney, Greg Laswell, Ingrid Michaelson, Radical Face


Observing a musician’s personal journey through his or her music has always been a committed fan’s greatest and most perceptive talent, especially in genres like indie rock that are not motivated by catchiness and pop-appeal, but rather by the relationship between the musician, the music, and the listener.  Influenced by a personal reinvention and commitment to his fans, the indie rock singer-songwriter Andrew Belle has poured himself into yet another creative venture.  The Chicago-based artist recently released his second album, “Black Bear,” in August 2013.  He stated that “Black Bear” is “a continuation of the story that [he] began with “The Ladder” [his debut album]” and introduced his audience to a different part of him.

While Andrew Belle’s debut album, “The Ladder,” focused on soft, acoustic, instrumentals accentuating his contemplative and poetic lyrics, “Black Bear” takes a creative risk with electronic layering to create an ambient and distant sound.  Contrasting with his usual “piano-guitar-violin” combo, Belle utilizes heavy rhythm to magnify the true impact of his music.  Similar to his widely-known song, “Sky’s Still Blue,” Belle experiments with echoes and slight distortion to his natural voice.  However, his slow and calm vocals are not lost!  While oftentimes voice distortion is associated with extreme Auto-Tune, Belle’s overall vibe, on the other hand, still reads as pure and raw.  The final song,“I Won’t Fight It,” barely uses any electronica, as its prominent piano tune overpowers the melody to remind fans that Belle has not completely abandoned his old style.

Despite Belle’s new sound, he has retained his defining artistic characteristic as the writer of deep poetry.  It would not be an Andrew Belle song if it did not unpack a heavy load of confusion about life reflections and provide listeners with a decent dose of nostalgia.  With a spiritual inspiration, Belle’s thoughtful and well-crafted lyrics once again continue the trend of self-discovery and perception of the world.  Metaphorical statements like “All I breathe is grey/But through the disarray/You’re the emissary vein/To my left right brain” truly accentuate Belle’s talent as not only a singer, but also as a writer (“Dark Matter”).  He links his songs with the common theme of love and acceptance and allows his music to provide a harmonizing and humbling experience.  On “Black Bear,” Belle speaks of innocence, disconnect, strength, vulnerability, and pure humanity, showing his maturity as an artist and ability to connect to his listeners through a variety of topics.  “Black Bear” suggests an older, confrontational, and more determined narrator, rather than a young, lonely, boy who sang his poems in “The Ladder.”  Even though both “The Ladder” and “Black Bear” were conceptual albums, fed with Belle’s personal journey, the interpretations of either of the LPs are loose and thus can be tailored by each individual listener.

Andrew Belle’s transition from indie rock to a slightly more alternative and electronic style has been a smooth one as he plays up his previous, unique melodies to fit his current shifting genre.  “Black Bear” is a “headphones-on-shut-the-world-out-find-yourself” kind of album and will leave listeners feeling inspired and hopeful.

Andrew Belle is currently touring with Leagues and will be at the Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA on November 11.  Unfortunately, this concert is for ages 18 and older.  Next time, Baby Devils!

Overall Rating: 5/5

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