Review Summary: Bear vs. Shark fans rejoice in the return of Mark Paffi, as Bars of Gold's debut is a fine album in the vein of a grown up BVS.
Hype is everything in entertainment. With music, movies, and tv, nothing is better than a good, positive buzz leading up to the release. Whether it be because of the people involved, the clips and trailers, or critics' reviews, the hype created can be just as important as the product inself. In the case of Bars of Gold, they have all three.
Bars of Gold's Of Gold is possibly the most highly anticipated album that many of you haven't heard of this year. The reason for this is simple; look at a anything written about the band and you will surely see the words "ex Bear vs. Shark." As soon as it was known that former Bear vs. Shark vocalist Marc Paffi was involved, an entire cult fanbase was reduced to a bunch of giddy, giggling fangirls. Anticipation and expectations skyrocketed. Then came the singles on myspace, most notably "The Hustle." Everything we heard leading up to the release was great, and now, Of Gold is here.
Of Gold, while containing some stylistic differences from Bear vs. Shark's releases, has plenty of Paffi's signature vocals and general musical nuttiness to elate any BVS fan. Indeed, the album has the feel of a grown up Bear vs. Shark. Paffi's easily recognizable bark is often the highlight, to no one's surprise. It is as powerful as ever, and demands that you get up and move. Able to handle just about everything, from the more melodic turns on "............." to the shouting style he employs so well, Paffi vocals have only gotten better over the past six years.
This album is, first and foremost, a lot of fun. The fun and afore-mentioned general music nuttinessis are immediately evident. Album opener "Boss Level" lives up to it's title, as the bouncy bass and happy electronic beats wouldn't be too out of place if they were played as Mario saved Peach. Each track has an element of this, whether it be the odd lyrics and bird-imitating guitar falsetto on "Birds" or the vocal bursts on "Heaven Has A Heater."
Bars of Gold do just about everything well here though, not just the fun quirks. The drumming throughout is impressive and highlights almost every song. The guitar work on "Up, Up, Up" pulses through you as Paffi's quick vocals are at their movement-inspiring best. Following it is the rather straight-forward, ballad-esque "Cannibals," whcih is an excellent finale. It channels some deeper emotion while recapturing your attention with the dominant drumming of the other former BVS member, Brandon Moss.
The highlight of the album is doubtlessly "The Hustle." Marching deliberately forward, paced by loud drums that give it focus, while a plucky banjo and some vocal sliding help it maintain the fun feel of the rest of the album. Pushing it up a notch is the sudden pause of everything but drums, before it reescalates into an excellent final burst.
Of Gold may not be one of the best albums of the year, but it really doesn't have to be. It is an excellent, incredibly fun debut from the band, and more than meets the expectations of those who have been waiting a long time for it. With songs built by dominant drumming, smooth bass, varied guitar play and catchy riffs, and a vocal performance every fan will love, Bars of Gold have crafted an album that will dominate many 'favorites' lists at year's end.