Indie Singer-Songwriter Postrich Bear Drops Earnest New Album
Sometimes music hurts. Some notes hit hard and some lyrics hit harder and you can feel something churning in your gut, a pang or an ache or something of equal measure.
For us, this inexplicable hurt comes in the form of Postrich Bear’s newest album, Buzzkill, released yesterday. Postrich Bear is Andy Alvarez, an Oregon-based singer-songwriter self-producing and releasing bittersweet indie songs in a basement. You’ve probably heard that before — basements all over the world have made makeshift homes for emerging musicians and the paths they go on to follow.
This is different. Andy’s been in bands before (he’s got music in his bones) but the songs he’s writing alone under Postrich Bear are the ones that haven’t quite fit in with his collaborative projects. These are the songs that were begging to crawl up out of his soul and land on paper and flicker on his fingertips. These are the songs that Andy wrote for himself and himself only.
Hear what Andy told The Music Mermaid about Buzzkill below:
Buzzkill opens with “Meg Said,” possibly the most honest and perfect love song there ever was. It opens with a looping, twangy strum before the arrangement starts to bloom with the deep wail of trumpet and a crescendo smash of percussion. Lost in the sonic shuffle, Andy sings about moments. This is what he does best — writes instance by instance with a kind of depth you won’t find just anywhere. It’s an earnest look at love in just one moment, and the warbling minimalism of the arrangement makes it all the more tender. Following that gut-punch opener is “Mooncalf,” wild and sparkling with the jangling plink of keys and a desperately encroaching alt-rock arrangement. Once again, Andy’s aching voice is sent floating in the distance, riding percussive waves and singing soul-deep lyrics. “My Devil Baby,” the album’s sole single, finds sweet harmonies crooning on a bed of far-off synth swells and rolling riffs. It’s one of the shorter tracks on the record, acting as an interlude, of sorts, to the emotion we’re wading our way through.
“Aging Apathy” finds almost an identical guitar line to Buzzkill’s beginning — it’s a musical motif we’re not mad about because it’s the exact rhythm that broke our hearts and had us falling in love with the album anyway — but it devolves into a new, fleshed-out arrangement with the addition of steady percussion and robust melodies, all while Andy’s delivering line after line again of his in-your-face feelings, doled out like gifts. Like he trusts us with his confessions. “Lonely City” dips into more obvious alt-country territory — we’ve got ghostly harmony, a deeper vocal tone, twangy acoustic, and big, looming waves of drum beats. On “Where the River Meets the Mouth of the Ocean,” Andy delivers his least-polished effort (but that’s not a bad thing). It’s simple, it’s pretty, and he sounds so far away, like he’s walking on water and calling out to us. There’s a line on this one that gets stuck in you: “I don’t need a heart to fall in love again.” It’s a strange concept and it begs you to think about it longer than you’re comfortable with. Don’t we all need a heart? What does it mean if we haven’t got one? Does Andy even know?
On “Hopeful March of the Hopeless,” Andy confesses his most heart-heavy lyrics so far. The verses are straightforward in all their bitter agony and insecurity, but they’re dragged out by his aching voice and a soft strum. It doesn’t stay this way though — things start to pick up and suddenly you’re nodding your head and stamping your feet to pain soaked in rich brass tones. “Lucky Lounge Lizard” is quick and clipped, led by drowsy percussion and a woozy rhythm line. On “I Sink You Swim,” Andy’s lyricism hearkens back once again to Buzzkill’s opener. He sweetly, almost maniacally sings about pizza and tea and simple love, another heart song this time pulsing amid a sunny, sparkly composition. The shortest song on Buzzkill is “I Don’t Mind,” a mesmeric mantra sent spinning in soft acoustic clouds (and cello! Cello finds its way onto the album!).
“My Dog” is one of the most lo-fi tracks on the record. Once again, Andy’s vocals are crooning in the foggy distance and the percussive element buzzes with subtle garage-rock power. On “F Is For Friends That Sometimes Drift Apart,” Andy’s earnest, communicative type of songwriting takes lead as he reflects on fleeting friendships to the tune of simple, rolling strums. As we near the end of Buzzkill, “Stuck In A Rut” arrives to offer some quick angst delivered by discordant vocal parts and multi-instrumental warbles. On “BFF BBQ,” there are tons of new sonic details — a warm surf-rock rhythm line, quick-paced percussive beats, and an upbeat treatment of the closest thing we get to a singalong hook on Buzzkill. Lush, lovely “Kuma” languishes, taking its time before searing rhythms and surprise tempo changes transform its dreaminess into an indie-rock romp. “Swan Song” isn’t actually Buzzkill’s swan song — it’s the second to last track off the record so we’ve still got one more to get to until Andy says goodbye for now — but it’s another earnest effort built on tender guitar lines and pounding drums. Buzzkill ends after 17 tracks with “It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better,” the quintessential Postrich Bear song. Bittersweet and haunting, led by quivering vocals delivering the album’s effective conclusion among a tender guitar-led arrangement: “I love my stupid life / Even though I know it gets so hard sometimes.”
This impossibly simple end is deceiving. It’s abrupt, fading out into an echoing piano sparkle, and it means so much. This is not just Andy Alvarez reminding himself that there are better things to come — this is him reassuring us that though the past 70 minutes were a deep-dive into the darkest corners of his soul, we stuck it out together and it’s not just the dark that makes an impact. It’s the light — illuminated in moments across the album when a trumpet blares or a cymbal crashes or a lyric is sung sweetly or a piano note sparkles. Buzzkill is Postrich Bear’s gutsy offering, a meandering and poetic collection of indie jewels from an artist who knows that being genuine is the bravest thing we can do.
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Featured photo of Postrich Bear by Joey Gomez