Back in March we shared Made Out Of Maps, the first taste of Wojtek The Bear’s debut album. That album, A Talent For Being Unreasonable, has quickly rolled around, and is set to land on the world this Friday on the excellent Scottish Fiction imprint. Ahead of its release we’re delighted to share the full stream of the record here today alongside a track by track with the band.
A Talent For Being Unreasonable follows hot on the heels of their 2017, self-titled EP; the album was recorded in Glasgow’s Shady Lane Studio with producer Chris McCrory, known for this work with Catholic Action and Casual Sex. The record is an impressive step-forward for the band, branching their sound out over an array of different styles without losing the inherent character of the band’s recording.
The record features some of the band’s boldest and most dynamic songwriting, the aforementioned Made Of Maps or the almost emo-leaning Kindness Doesn’t Cost, yet it also finds them stripping back to something melodic and almost minimal. Postcode is a delightful, almost jazzy interlude about the difficulty of not selling out your beliefs for personal gain, while Effort is a perfect pop-song that’s not quite ready to shed its flannel shirt and grab its deserved mainstream acclaim.
Creating a debut album can be a delicate balancing act, expressing enough ideas without sounding unfocused or overly ambitious, on A Talent For Being Unreasonable, Wojtek The Bear seem to have done it with ease. Held together by the omnipresent vocal of Tam Killean, this is a creative, ambitious and intriguing debut record, and one surely destined to propel the band towards a very bright musical future.
1. oil & water
There’s definitely a theme of dysfunction and learning to accept it running throughout the album and it’s therefore probably quite fitting that this kicks the album off as it’s a song about learning to live with low level addictions. By that I mean being addicted to anyone or anything really but not at a level where it totally debilitates you. There’s a line in there “Like a mountain, I may be on top of you, but I will never, no I’ll never conquer you” which I think sums up what I was trying to say about being quietly resigned to living with something you know isn’t good for you but on some level you definitely still enjoy.
2. the navies of landlocked nations
I had the title for this song kicking around for ages and I really liked it as a metaphor for feeling utterly useless in a situation. This was one of the last songs we wrote for the album and the arrangement took a bit of blood sweat and raging arguments to get right but I think we did it justice in the end. I’m particularly pleased with how the piano intro works on it too.
This is unashamedly a song about growing old and getting to that stage in your life where people starting asking awkward questions about where your life is going, what your “plan” is and when you’ll start having kids. They’re probably some of the most straight-forward/direct lyrics I’ve written but hopefully they don’t come off as too on the nose. We seem to have a knack for writing songs around the 3 minute mark that do everything they need to before shuffling off and I think this is a good example of that, it’s small but perfectly formed!
4. kindness doesn’t cost
This has probably my two favourite parts on the album in the key change section just after the first chorus and the lyrics in the second verse: “I send you letters with no address, still I wait for your reply, I call your number when I know you’re not at home, just to tell myself I tried”. It’s about realising how much of a dick I’ve been at times to people and how I’ve tried to square that away (rather unsuccessfully!) with myself. Which sounds pretty depressing written down but in reality it’s one of the most upbeat songs on the record!
We wrote this almost immediately after Paul joined the band and I love how it has that almost rolling wave thing going on rhythmically. Chuck has a thing about that whole Cocteau Twins guitar sound and I love how that sits with the bass and Tino’s drums on this to create a “big” sound without going for the easy option and battering a load of distortion in the mix!
6. made out of maps
We’re not ashamed of the fact that we’re trying to write pop songs and this and “oil & water” are probably our best stabs at it to date. I’d written the basic chords to this and brought it along to rehearsal one night where Chuck fired the main riff over the top almost instantly, at that point we knew we had something we could really work with. It’s a jangly indie pop song that wears its maladjusted heart on its sleeve!
7. call this a war
I’m more than a wee bit obsessed with The Wire and have re-watched it about 5 times now, there’s a line in the pilot episode which I loved where Carver is talking about the war on drugs and says “You can’t even call this shit a war, wars end”. I was trying to apply that to some dysfunctional relationships I’ve found myself in before whereby you feel like although it’s a constant battle that war will never really be over. I had an idea in my head that I wanted to write something that sounded like “break me gently” by Doves but, as always seems to happen it didn’t turn out quite like that, and it’s all the better for it!
Both Chuck and I are big fans of the Mac Demarco album “Salad Days” and there’s definitely nods to him on this in the guitar sound and song structure. It’s a song about being so lazy that you can’t even bring yourself to hate someone, all dressed up as a summery up-beat pop song!
9. a talent for being unreasonable
Another song where lyrically I try to come to terms with the fact I seem to have a natural aptitude for pissing people off! It’s probably the most grandiose song on the record without hopefully feeling bloated or overdone. I’m a huge fan of Richard Hawley and definitely had his ability to write those kind of sweeping classic pop songs in mind when we were writing this.
10. strong suit
With this song I was trying to write an old style country & western ballad where the couple argue and address each other throughout the verses. I struggled with it for a while and wasn’t even sure we’d use it on the album until Annie agreed to try singing it with us. She’s got an amazing voice and it was just one of those magical things where her voice seemed to fit perfectly with mine. It’s the most stripped back song on the album but it felt like a fitting way to round off the record.
A Talent For Being Unreasonable is out May 24th via Scottish Fiction Records. Click HERE for more information on Wojtek The Bear.