“Hello, It’s You” by Bearings

Lovely lovely
Do you love me?
I find it hard to believe
Lovely lovely
Do you love me?
Life ain’t nothing but a dream
So shine your love down on me”

To go from making my last Listening post on global pop star Taylor Swift’s evermore to now making one on Ottawa-based pop punkers Bearings’s sophomore effort Hello, It’s You may seem like a bit of a dramatic jump, but hear me out, because I’m telling you: this record is just as worthy of your listening time as any of last year’s big releases.

Few artists can, in my opinion, fundamentally nail that which is called “pop punk” — if you’re not familiar, it’s a genre of music that sounds exactly like it says, but many bands have put different spins on it, leaning more heavily on one element or the other. It happens to be my favourite genre of music, but because it’s a bit more niche these days than when it used to be (say, when Blink-182 was mainstream), it’s very easy for it to fall into a few slightly irritating tropes: (1) very similar lyrical themes (usually about some girl rejecting the singer and him being butthurt about it), (2) the songs all sounding the same, and (3) an unwillingness by many of these more “serious” bands to really lean into their pop side. It’s like they’re scared it’ll turn their music shallow or something.

Bearings, however, advances with no fear on Hello, It’s You, completing what I consider a perfect blend of “pop” and “punk” elements. They craft something that sounds new and unique without losing their essence, which can be summarized beautifully in lead vocalist Doug Cousins’s slightly gritty voice that is still full of soul and pop sensibility.

I first heard of Bearings a little over two years ago and I’ve had the chance to see them live in concert twice since (they killed it both times). They’d been touring to promote their debut album Blue In The Dark (which I also highly recommend you check out, along with their entire discography, it’s all so good) and I was eager to support such a great Canadian band.

From the moment the single Sway hit streaming platforms, I knew this album was going to be something special. I wasn’t initially a fan of the two tracks So Damn Wrong and I Feel It All (which I was frankly a bit surprised to see on the final record since so much time had elapsed since their release (in 2019, I believe) but they’ve grown on me since) but with Sway my excitement returned tenfold. There’s something about that pause before they launch into the chorus, which is a great piece of songwriting:

You’re swimming in my veins
Around your room
And it’s not the same without you
To something blue
She bases what she’s drinking on the place and time of day
Says that she loves California but she hates LA, okay

— “Sway”

Cool, easygoing, tongue-in-cheek writing — some of my favourite I’ve encountered in a while in pop punk. Coupled with those bouncy drums and that bright guitar riff, this song just makes me want to jump around; I can never sit still when I listen to it and I can’t help but smile at the thought of how awesome it’ll be in a live setting (one day).

I think it’s also poppy enough that even if you don’t usually like rock or punk, you might still enjoy this song. In fact, if I could only recommend one track from this album to you, Sway would be it, without a doubt.

To be fair, to the seasoned pop punk listener looking for something super fresh, Sway might not stray too much into new territory, I’ll give you that (I promise it’s catchy though). However, several other tracks on this album definitely push the pop punk genre’s boundaries.

Consider The Band CAMINO-esque Super Deluxe, or the guitar-driven emo rap track Dreams, or the nostalgic, bright rock song Better Yesterday: each make an effort to create something different within pop punk, and I personally see a ton of value in this type of experimentation from artists within a genre prone to oversaturation with the same damn material. It’s not that Bearings are selling out to more popular genres (I’ve seen people accuse them of this, especially with Dreams); it’s that they’re finding ways to inject some new life into their music, without losing their essence either. Each song still sounds so distinctly theirs.

Aside from being able to write bangers in various genres and innovate in a variety of sonic directions while still creating a highly cohesive record, Bearings also manage to create a no-skip listening experience with Hello, It’s You, which I always appreciate.

If I really had to pick a least favourite track, it’d probably be Love Me Like You Did. There’s nothing “wrong” with it per se, but I don’t love Cousins’s vocal performance on it as much as on the other songs, and it strays pretty heavily into a few of those basic pop punk tropes I mentioned earlier. Still, I definitely don’t dislike it enough to skip it, in part because it feels like it has such an integral place in the structure of the album.

And I know the album format in general is dying and while that makes me a bit sad, I understand why. The thing is, though, I love singles too and I’m excited by the prospect that some of my favourite bands might move to a more singles-focused music making/release strategy. All this to say, I can’t help but love when an artist or band can create both great singles and great full-lengths; it’s no official benchmark of talent or anything, but I still find it impressive because it means they can fulfill both sets of criteria that go into making singles and albums. As Hello, It’s You and the album’s single beautifully exemplify, Bearings is clearly one of these highly capable bands.

Ultimately, it’s the awesome songwriting, the innovation, and the cohesive but varied listening experience that keep me coming back to Hello, It’s You over and over again. I highly, highly recommend you check out this album, and if you do/did, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

“evermore” by Taylor Swift

“My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone

Your ivy grows
And now I’m covered in you”

Kicking off this re-vamped version of my blog on the first day of the new year feels like a fresh new beginning for me, which is honestly exactly how I would describe evermore, the newest project from Taylor Swift. Mixing her pop sensibility with a hint of her country roots, a modern folk sound, and her god-tier songwriting, she truly delivers on this project, causing myself (and many of her fans) to continue listening over and over again.

Now, I’ll be honest: I’ve never really been a Swiftie, despite always having respected and admired her artistry since the start of her prolific career. Her music never really resonated with me personally even though, again, it’s easy to see why it resonates with so many other people. I was impressed with the production on reputation and Lover especially and I found folklore alright, but still, I felt like I didn’t really “get” Taylor like others did.

All of that changed when evermore came out less than a month ago. Somehow, when the opening notes of willow rang out in my ears, I knew I was going to love this project. The chorus of this track is just sublime from a songwriting and production perspective.

“The more that you say, the less I know
Wherever you stray, I follow
I’m begging for you to take my hand
Wreck my plans, that’s my man”

— “willow”

The excellent songwriting is probably the most consistent aspect of evermore (which is saying something, because this is a very cohesive project on many levels) and what personally made me fall for it. It’s more elaborate, raw, and prose-ish than anything she’s ever put out, in my opinion. The storytelling nature of a lot of folk or general “guitar” music is mixed with pop song structures and catchy choruses, as seen on the country-tinged no body, no crime (feat. HAIM) which is among my favourites on the album. The more complex lyricism is poetic without sounding stuffy or as though Taylor is “trying too hard” in any way. It feels so honest, in a way that I personally never saw coming from Taylor on an acoustic album. Something about quieter music brings out the emotion for me in a way that pop songs like those which can be found on albums like reputation just don’t (I still really like reputation though).

Don’t get me wrong, folklore was strong in the songwriting department as well, and didn’t come off as dishonest or anything, and I’m not saying it wasn’t emotional and well-done. However, I do think that it missed the mark a bit when it came to the instrumentation; too many songs blended together, and for me, this resulted in much of the emotional message getting diluted. I was zoning in and out because the instrumental aspects weren’t interesting enough for me (exile (feat. Bon Iver) is an absolute masterpiece though; it makes me want to learn piano just to play it).

This is an issue that evermore avoids entirely, in my opinion, and so when Taylor’s incredible lyricism and songwriting skills met the proper instrumental backdrop, it felt like magic to me. It still does.

I honestly don’t think there’s a song I dislike on the album. Of course, I have favourites (willow, champagne problems, no body, no crime (feat. HAIM), ivy) and least favourites (happiness, coney island (feat. The National)) like with any album, but to make a project unique and cohesive enough in a genre you haven’t touched in a while without a single dud is impressive.

I think another reason the album personally really got to me was not only the pain in the lyrics, but the refinement with which it’s addressed. There’s a sort of class in the way she phrases things and in the way she discusses her hardship. Take these lyrics from Shake It Off, from her album 1984:

But I keep cruisin’
Can’t stop, won’t stop groovin’
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Sayin’ it’s gonna be alright

‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

— “Shake It Off”

Then, from the title track from evermore:

Gray November
I’ve been down since July
Motion capture
Put me in a bad light
I replay my footsteps on each stepping stone
Trying to find the one where I went wrong
Writing letters
Addressed to the fire

— “evermore (feat. Bon Iver)”

There’s something to be said about her incredibly wide range of expression; not just that she feels the different emotions expressed in those two songs, but that she can make them both into great songs. However, when I personally look at those two examples, I definitely gravitate more towards the latter, not just because the lyrics are sadder and I’m an emo idiot, but because of the ethereality she creates with her words. It’s a mixture of lyrics and instrumentation of course (putting the poppy beat of Shake It Off with these lyrics wouldn’t create that same effect, and vice-versa), but still. At the risk of sounding too vague, I read that, and I feel like I’m floating in a shifting pool of emotion; as opposed to having it bluntly presented to me, I get to be thoughtful and reflective as I am slowly immersed into the waters of Taylor’s and my own mind.

evermore is the perfect mixture of a large range of emotions, and as a work by Taylor Swift, it feels at once fresh and familiar. It’s beautiful, and it continues to be highly impactful for me each time I listen through. I highly recommend you check it out.