We don’t get albums like the debut from Long Beard often, and when we do, we almost never realize what we have until it’s too late. Leslie Bear has been vocal about the fact that she thought this record might never come into fruition; that it is an album born of doubt, insecurity, fear and struggle. The longer I continue in my career as a music critic, the more certain I am that the best records are the ones born from that kind of pathos. It’s tempting to call Sleepwalker, which premiered today at The Fader, a cloudy sort of slowcore indie rock, but it’s too precious for that. It’s tempting to call it shoegaze or dreampop, and though these songs glimmer with incandescence, they’re too certain to fall into these swirling categories. They’re personal, intimate and melancholy enough to qualify as folk songs, but there’s so much electronic texture here that doesn’t feel quite right either.
What we have in Sleepwalker is an album that doesn’t defy or buck genre, but that exceeds it. Leslie Bear has distilled the details of her life into a moonlit collection of music that’s expansive enough to be the night sky for everyone. Listening to Sleepwalker gives me the exact same feeling as when I look up at the stars and feel overwhelmed by their brightness, their specificity, their eternity. This sense of awe spins from the whispered bits of “Intro” through till the stretching, wordless middle of “Someplace.” “Hates The Party” and “Turkeys” capture the tiny hopes of after school love affairs, and the uncanny feeling that no social event in your region is going to propel you toward the dreams you dream.
“Morning Ghost” might be my favorite song here, though, a porcelain track that haunts like a dripping faucet, a curtain blowing in the breeze. It emerges like a long-lost twin to something off For Emma, Forever Ago, and Bon Iver is the easiest kin to speak of here. Bear’s spirit inhabits Sleepwalker with a fullness that most artists spend their entire life trying to achieve, and that real ones hit upon almost as if by accident, like Justin Vernon did. It captures the magnificent melancholy of what that process feels like — the yearning to be great, the hope that you are — the creative gaze turned upward, searching above, aching toward the rest of the universe. We got lucky this time; Bear for Sleepwalker connected with something truly cosmic. This album made the universe a little brighter. Deep down, isn’t that always the point?
Sleepwalker is out 10/23 on Team Love.