The 2 Bears

The Night Is Young

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The 2 Bears' Raf Rundell and Joe Goddard continue the empowering feel of their debut album Be Strong on The Night Is Young, a set of songs that ponder aging and life's fleeting pleasures -- not the least of which are moments spent on the dancefloor. As the duo deals with uncertainty and finds comfort in steady beats, the '90s influences they introduced in their earlier work sound fresher and more relevant than ever. The Night Is Young opens with the inspired one-two punch of "Get Out," which shifts from moody breakbeat to confident house rhythms and back again, and "Angel (Touch Me)," which manages to be equally comforting and kinetic with another solid four-on-the-floor beat and soaring pianos and vocals. Many of the album's other highlights follow suit: the tender, thoughtful "Modern Family," the inspiring "Unbuild It," and the stylish "Not This Time" are as reflective as they are danceable, recalling Goddard's work with Hot Chip on albums like One Life Stand and In Our Heads. While The Night Is Young is rooted in the same spirit that made Be Strong so engaging, Goddard and Rundell go farther afield musically and geographically. The 2 Bears join a crew of artists including Damon Albarn, Populous, and Debruit who mine Africa's rich musical traditions for inspiration, and the duo recorded parts of the album in South Africa with local musicians. The hypnotic "Son of the Sun" bears these influences most clearly with vocals by Senyaka and Sbusiso, but this expansive feel extends to much of the album's latter half. Rundell and Goddard sound especially liberated on "Mary Mary," an elongated journey through acoustic guitar loops and spoken word samples recalling early-'90s Orb, the harder-edged "Run Run Run," and the transcendent title track. While The Night Is Young's eclecticism is often thrilling, not everything the 2 Bears try works. "Money Man," a well-intended piece of reggae-pop that takes aim at the 1%, falls flat, while "See You" takes the duo's fondness for playful sounds and vocals to annoying depths. Even if The Night Is Young could have been improved by better editing, it's still a welcome return from one of dance's most endearing acts.

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