The 2 Bears – Be Strong

Some people tell you what to listen to,
Spend the whole time saying this and that is cool,
You got to follow your own mind and ears,
And find a sound that stays inside your head for years.

So sings Raf Rundell, lead singer of British duo The 2 Bears (his partner in crime is Joe Goddard of Hot Chip), on “Be Strong,” from their debut album of the same name.

Posting this song is tricky, because what is a music blog doing if not telling you what to listen to? And isn’t it implied that all of the songs we post are cool? Why is it okay for a blog, but not for that friend who always commandeers the auxiliary cable?

Music snobs hate that person. If the offending individual begins pumping top-40, the snob can smirk and give his or herself a self-satisfactory pat on the back. But if instead Boards of Canada or Shuggie Otis flows forth, the snob will experience a crisis of identity and jealousy: “If I was as big of a douche I could have taken over the music and played something even more obscure and cool. But I’m not a douche, so I’ll let it go and give myself a pat on the back anyway.”

Casual music listeners also hate that person. They don’t want a music education. They don’t want to confront challenging art, and often don’t know how. Lightning Bolt? Is that, like, Katy Perry‘s new single?

Yet music snobs and causal listeners alike devour music blogs. People, and especially “millennials” desire curation as a way to cut through the noise and find value without spending time. Its much easier for people to shed their snobbery or “basic” tastes in private, where cool is no longer dictated by their crowd and rather by their personal preferences. Even the hippest hipster has guilty pleasure bands, and even the most radio-brained have some Miles Davis in their libraries.

By posting “Be Strong,” I, and therefore Et Musique Pour Tous as a structure, am saying “listen to this song, it is good, it is cool.” My/our opinion. We hope you love it, and that it “stays inside your head for years.” But if you hate it, that’s healthy too. “Following your own mind and ears” is hard to do in the era of curated cool, but I believe in you! By discovering your personal aesthetic preferences without worry about other peoples’, you build self confidence and take a step away from ever needing a self-aggrandizing pat on the back. Freedom from groupthink is a laudable goal, but so too is the reduction of snobbery. 

The 2 Bears – Be Strong

Music Video

The 2 Bears – Heart of the Congos


I would venture to guess that most EMPT readers are familiar with Hot Chip, the excellent, enduring brainchild of Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard. One of my favorite bands, Hot Chip have brilliantly managed to become popular internationally without becoming “mainstream.” They headline festivals, but you won’t hear them on the radio (unless you listen to the good shit in the UK and Australia, or KCRW).

Both Taylor and Goddard are musical geniuses, in very different ways. Taylor’s melodies always sound slightly off, and yet are right on the money. Goddard’s productions are dance-y in spite of their often melancholic, street-facing moods.

Yet they too fly under the radar. Most Hot Chip fans wouldn’t recognize either man on the street, and they aren’t exactly performing at the Grammys. And that’s fine. Fronting a successful band while avoiding public recognition is the ultimate success (exemplified by Daft Punk) for many artists, as they maintain freedom to operate without immense public pressure.

In ’09, Taylor formed a “supergroup” called About Group and recorded a fully improvised album. The group released a second LP in 2011, to little fanfare. Both albums are romps into the mind of this specific artist, and if you dig his thing, you will enjoy them.

Goddard’s side project, though, takes the cake. The Two Bears is he and Raf Rundell, who you definitely haven’t heard of, producing subdued garage two-step and generally having fun. They released three EPs in 2010-2011, and a full length, “Be Strong,” in 2012. Their discography counts as a must-listen. Every song is different, and every song is great.

Today I share with you my favorite track, “Heart of the Congos,” which shares the story of a man who grows up listening to The Congos, an early reggae group, and eventually gets to see them at a concert. Sounds random, and it is, but Rundell’s crooning over Goddard’s late-night house beats bring the story to life in vivid color. And I’m not even touching the crazy vocoded chorus and bridge…

I said it was the sound/that kept me on the ground.”

The 2 Bears – Heart of the Congos


Joe Goddard – Gabriel (feat. Valentina)

Enter the sanctuary of Joe Goddard.

This one felt appropriate since Hot Chip just released In Our Heads. I’m still not sure how Joe does it. Five studio albums with Hot Chip and the recent release of The 2 Bears’ Be Strong have tempered him in the fires of electro-indie-dance-tronica.

I walked 2.5 miles in the rain today mulling over the lyrics, seeking the greater meaning of it all. The clouds parted, and I drank a limeade. Maybe Gabriel is just a dude named after an angel.

Meanwhile, the heavenly vocals meet the unavoidable beat, and Valentina croons some heavy duty rebuke:

Do not come to give me counsel. You should beg forgiveness of me, Gabriel.”

Angel or not, she sounds over him, and I just want to dance.

Ponder the moral of the story later.

Joe Goddard – Gabriel (feat. Valentina)