Minus The Bear may never be as famous as other well-known Seattle bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, but they have a loyal fan base that has greatly supported them over the last 12 years. Their success in that span of time on independent labels like Suicide Squeeze and Dangerbird Records has come with some mainstream exposure, with the hit single “My Time,” a couple appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and an appearance on Live from Daryl’s House being some of the more noteworthy accomplishments.
On occasion though, the group has gone totally DIY, as with the 2008 release of the Acoustics EP on their own label, Tigre Blanco Records. Five years later, with the aid of fan support via a successful PledgeMusic campaign, MTB is out with its first full album of acoustic material on Tigre Blanco, simply titled Acoustics II.
This 10-track album contains selections from all five of their original studio albums, along with two new tunes, “Riddles” and “The Storm.” As fans might expect, the songs in acoustic and light drums form carry with them a lighter sound but no less melodic weight. Also of note is that all selections are different from the seven that comprised the Acoustics EP.
Perhaps the most different arrangements on the release can be found on songs like “Hooray” (from Menos El Oso) and on the band’s signature song, “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” (from their first and best album Highly Refined Pirates). Gone are the pre-programmed guitar loops and wah-wah pedal-propelled riffs on the former, and the artful symphony of two-handed tapping notes that defined the opening of the latter track. In place of “Absinthe’s” instantly recognizable opening is a new and brilliant finger-picked sequence of notes, courtesy of lead guitar wizard Dave Knudson. The new approaches to both songs won’t quite make you prefer them over the original versions but are refreshing and enjoyable nonetheless.
Knudson’s high-end guitar chords truly glisten on “The Game Needed Me” and “Hooray.” And instead of the usual atmospheric and colorful keyboard flourishes Alex Rose is known for employing on MTB records, here, he adds light (keyboard-created) organ, Fender Rhodes or xylophone touches on these and other tracks such as “When We Escape” (originally from the Planet of Ice LP) and another highlight, “Dayglow Vista Road” (from Omni). His textures are definitely warmer than the cold winter singer/guitarist Jake Snider sings about on “Hooray,” that’s for sure. Overall, the whole collection is a true treat for Minus The Bear fans. You just can’t go wrong with these guys. Highly recommended.
Order Acoustics II on digital or physical form at Amazon, iTunes, or your local record store, especially if you prefer vinyl.
Note: Not on the official release is a faithful rendition of “Steel and Blood,” which was available to fans who took part in the PledgeMusic campaign. The original version was previously a single from the band’s 2012 Infinity Overhead album.