There are reasons most outtakes didn’t make the albums they were written for. Some didn’t fit in with the thematic flow of the rest of the material. Others flat out weren’t good enough to make the cut. On rare occasions the previously unreleased work actually sounds just as good as most of the album tracks, but was omitted because there was only so much space on the record. Minus the Bear‘s Lost Loves fit this category. The album features songs the Seattle alt/prog-rockers recorded between 2007, when they released their third album, Planet of Ice, and 2012, when they put out Infinity Overheard, their latest disc of studio originals. From the earliest to the newest songs on Lost Loves, Minus the Bear demonstrate a consistency of playful musicianship and songwriting skill. There are subtle developments — more cohesive keyboards, fewer jarring rhythmic shifts, a stronger emphasis on the songs instead of the sounds — yet it’s clearly Minus the Bear’s contorted muse throughout.
One of the earliest cuts, “Electric Rainbow” adheres angular guitars at obtuse angles and builds dynamics with a distorted pentatonic guitar scale accompanied by yearning vocals about, not the usual failed relationships, but a bank heist gone wrong. “Broken China,” from the next series of outtakes, starts with a pastiche of wobbly synths, chirping birds and braying guitars before settling into an offbeat pop ditty interjected by abrasive chords that slash through a blippy synth melody. The song ends with dueling lead guitars, screaming sirens and Atari videogame sounds.
The outtakes from Infinity Overheard are less chaotic, but equally engaging. “Walk on Air” starts with disjointed chords and melancholy vocals, and builds to a dance-pop chorus that could appeal equally to fans of Chromeo and Foster the People. On the Krautrock-ish “Cat Calls & Ill Means” from the Planet of Ice sessions, frontman Jake Snider sings, “Some kinks are never meant to be worked out/ the more that you feel them the more you need the doubt.” In the case of Lost Loves, fans should feel fortunate that Minus the Bear cast aside any doubt and assembled an album that holds together as well as any of their others.