Do you love me?
I find it hard to believe
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
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!