Bear’s Den is one of the greatest folk-rock bands currently producing music that you may have never heard of but definitely need to know. The group formed in London in 2012 with three members: Andrew Davie (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar), Kevin Jones (vocals, drums, bass, guitar), and Joey Haynes (vocals, banjo, guitar), and have since released three albums and two EPs, although Haynes left the group in 2016. They’ve toured with Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliff, Mumford & Sons, and Daughter, among other artists, and have received nominations for several awards.
A good friend of mine introduced me to a few Bear’s Den songs a few months back, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Their music is absolutely gorgeous and never fails to tug on the heartstrings, especially in their songs where their vocals and harmonies really shine. They make even the simplest of melodies heart-achingly beautiful by layering on each instrument to make every sound distinct, although they all meld together wonderfully, and I personally believe that’s where some of their magic comes from. If you want to hear their music, which you should, here are 5 Bear’s Den songs that you definitely need to listen to ASAP.
This is the song that made me fall in love with their music. It starts off with a banjo and grows from there, and the harmonies in the song are so gorgeous it hurts. There’s really not a whole lot to dislike about it because it’s just so beautiful. The song details a relationship that the singer is scared of losing, both because they love their significant other and also because they don’t know who they would be without the other person. Despite the love in the relationship and the deep bond the two share, the singer is afraid that their significant other is going to leave them and the singer will have to learn to navigate life without them. Fun fact: agape is the Greek word for the highest form of love: unconditional love.
“Berlin” is a more laidback song than some of the other Bear’s Den songs, and the layering of instruments is part of what makes it so good. It begins with two guitars and vocals but adds others, including several brass instruments, but it still sounds simple up until the second chorus with the addition of even more instruments layered on top of the others. It all blends so seamlessly that you almost forget that they weren’t always in the song until it all fades away.
The song speaks to the singer’s former lover and how, despite his best efforts, he can’t forget the other person. This is juxtaposed with the references to the singer’s grandfather who (presumably) died from Alzheimer’s disease, a type of brain disorder which progressively worsens as it destroys a person’s memory and cognitive abilities. The singer can’t forget, just as his grandfather couldn’t remember, and both suffer or suffered as a result. This is a song about love, loss, and regret, and it is achingly, hauntingly lovely.
“The Love We Stole (Acoustic)”
While both versions, acoustic and not acoustic, are beautiful, there’s something about the acoustic version that just really tugs at the heartstrings. Maybe it’s the simplicity of having only two guitars, one banjo, and three voices singing in harmony, or maybe it’s the way it sounds like something that could be sung next to a lit fireplace while two lovebirds snuggle together under a blanket, but either way, the acoustic version is lovely.
This, like quite a few other Bear’s Den songs, shows how much the singer loves and cherishes his significant other, who he believes saved him with their love, despite his feeling like he might not deserve it. The phrase “punching up” comes to mind; the singer feels like he isn’t good enough for his significant other. The significant other clearly doesn’t think the same way though, since they choose to be with him, a sweet reminder that the way we see ourselves is often more negatively skewed than how others see us, and we all deserve love.
“Above The Clouds Of Pompeii”
If you want a song for crying, this is probably it, and the music video only makes it even more emotional. It’s a song of loss and comfort, and it gives a glimpse into the life of a family that’s struggling to live after the death of a loved one. The most poignant moment in the song comes during the bridge when most of the instruments fade away and the voice is heard repeating “I was too young to understand.” It’s here that you can really grasp the power of loss and how it steals the ground (or in this case, the instrumentals) out from underneath the people it affects. At the end of the bridge, the instruments add themselves in and you get a sense of peace and closure, maybe even a bit of joy. It is possible to live again after suffering a loss, and it is possible to find happiness.
“Red Earth & Pouring Rain”
The title track from their second album, “Red Earth & Pouring Rain” definitely has a different vibe from many other Bear’s Den songs, although the message of the song resonates with quite a few others. There’s more of a rock influence with this song, marking the album as a slight departure from the folkier first album, “Islands.” It sounds more synthesized and heavier on electronic instruments than previous tunes, but the band maintains their lovely harmonies, and it’s not difficult to imagine listening to it in the car at night with the windows rolled down.
The song reminds the singer’s significant other that what they have is special, but lets them know that the singer is scared to mess up everything. He says that he was running for so long before finding his partner that he forgot what he was running from, but he found something in his partner and their relationship that he holds dear and doesn’t want to lose. It’s equal parts sad and sweet; the singer’s fear of losing the other person and the love and security he doesn’t want to lose that he found within the relationship.