Album Review: Nahko – My Name is Bear

My Name is Bear might be one of the most interesting and powerful albums of 2017 as well as being one of the most versatile and soulfully uplifting collection of songs that we have seen in recent years. Nahko has fronted his musical collective Nahko and Medicine for the People for a decade this year and they are inarguably this. The band are somewhat of a tonic for the soul, a glorious and daring whirlwind of sound that cuts right to your very core, captivating and elevating you.

Nahko has previously commented on having grown up facing a severe cultural identity crisis from a young age. Born with a healthy mix of Apache, Puerto Rican and Filipino heritage to his name he was then adopted into an American family in Oregon he felt that he was often left with a collection of cultures in which to identify and find his place. However at the tender age of six he discovered where his true culture lay and that was in the piano. His love of music grew and grew as he learned and plied his trade over years to an ever increasing collection of genres. In his native culture at last, Nahko has thankfully been producing some of the most charming and astounding songs for us ever since.

My Name is Bear is an album so warm and bright that as you listen it’s hard not to feel the sun shining brightly down on your face from a blue and cloudless sky. The album opens with the honest and heartfelt tale of growing up, Dragonfly. Soft, simple and deeply harmonious, Dragonfly taps into the deepest recesses of your mind and sends childhood memories rippling through you like a stone thrown into a pond. As these warm memories coarse through you Nahko is simultaneously singing to the future. It’s a slower and softer song from the album that brings you charmingly into his world with a shared honesty. This is immediately followed by a brief interlude entitled The Vow. The Vow is a brief and earnest vow to both himself and his fans – a personal touch that immerses you into his life and music.

Once the vow is completed though, that is when Nahko really opens up on the throttle and lets his true sound burst forth. My Name is Bear is a phenomenal blend of genres that have so many subtle infusions from across the globe and ages that they each bleed into each other until something new and uncharted is gifted to us. A collection that sits Latino fused tunes alongside acoustic ska, folk, orchestral, rock, synth, electronica, classical, pop and so much more, his songs form a charismatic blanket of sound that envelops you with a series of tunes and rich and heady as honey wine. The experimental and versatile nature of Nahko’s music is breath-taking throughout as he is able to flit between genres are the strum of a note. His keenly addictive songs build themselves up around such a vibrant collection of sounds including pianos, keyboards, fiddles, synthesisers, tubas, trumpets, double bass and guitars the songs seem to bend as sway like trees in a warm summer breeze as Nahko guides them with a kind and gentle hand.

My Name is Bear is a deep and powerful album that is rife with some of the most astounding songs of 2017 including Dragonfly, Alice and Be Here Now. It’s every song is worthy of note before Nahko has even opened his mouth but it’s when he does that his songs burst to life with an almost visible aura and palpable heartbeat. The smooth, gentle and deeply emotional voice that Nahko lends to his music seems to ignite a flame in your chest that burns brighter and hotter as the album continues. Rich, ardent and tender, Nahko applies his unique and inimitable voice to a series of personal but easily resonating songs that we can all identify with. Singing odes to the thoughts in our lives that we neglect or bury he steeps his every word with a caring positivity, picking up his every listener and elevating them.

Nahko is precisely what he says on the tin – medicine for the people. My Name is Bear is a powerful and tender collection that helps to strengthen your heart with its every note. Rich and vibrant, his music is cheerful, playful and optimistic. Peppered with strong brass tunes and bouncing guitar melodies he harmoniously envelops his work and presents it to the world in a way that can only be described as a gift for the soul.

 

Nahko embarks on a full U.S. and European headlining tour in support of My Name Is Bear. The tour features a number of UK dates including a show at London Islington’s Assembly Hall on Friday December 1st. All tickets are on sale now: nahko.com/tour

UK & EUROPEAN TOUR

Nov 20 Hamburg, Germany – Fabrik
Nov 21 Cologne, Germany – Kultukirche
Nov 22 Berlin, Germany – Bi Nuu
Nov 23 Munich, Germany – Technikum
Nov 25 Amsterdam, Holland – Melkweg
Nov 26 Nijmegen, Holland – Dirnroosje
Nov 27 Leuven, Belgium – Depot
Nov 29 Paris, France – Petit Bain
Nov 30 Manchester, UK – Academy 3
Dec 1 London, UK – Islington Assembly Hall
Dec 2 Bristol UK – The Fleece

Pre-order My Name Is Bear here: smartURL.it/Nahko

Review by Joe Knipe