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Last month, London-based Cat Bear Tree released their new single, “Adult”, a punk-pop tune that had Wendy proclaiming the band’s potential could one day match great bands like L7 and Sleater-Kinney. “Adult” was just the tip of the iceberg, as this week the trio will release their debut EP, Settled In Our Hearts.
Throughout the album’s four tracks, there is a definite riot grrrl undertone a la Sleater-Kinney. There’s a grittiness and attitude to the music, of three young women who not only want to be heard but to make their mark on indie music. “Adult” is the star of the album with its dark, understated beginning before unraveling into a titillating 80s-esque, punk-pop tune. The song rises to a euphoric climax, punctuated by a great guitar riff and a infectious chorus that is a call for individuality and independence.
“Actual Fact” is the one song that comes closest to the riot grrrl genre. Rough around the edges yet infectious and with an “in-your-face” approach to the lyrics, frontwoman Zoe Konez channels her inner Corin Tucker. This understated rocker of a track has the band questioning nationalism and identity. The storywriting is clever, the bassline stands out, and the song as whole is awesome.
The remaining two songs on the album see Cat Bear Tree head in a slightly different direction. “Arms Length” and “Relationship” incorporate pop melodies and harmonies. While they lack the explicit edginess of the first two tracks, these songs maintain the core messages heard throughout the height of the riot grrrl movement – autonomy, independence, empowerment, confidence, and perseverance. So don’t let the gorgeous harmonies and the tickling melodies, especially on “Relationship”, fool you – these tracks aren’t about soft, gushy topics but about the everyday struggles so many young people, especially young women, continue to face each day.
While the riot grrrl movement peaked more than a decade ago and some great bands have come and gone (such as Demander), the return of Sleater-Kinney earlier this year helped bring the genre back into the public’s eye. Sustaining the momentum, however, will be dependent on the emergence of young bands willing to take the mantle. With their poignant songwriting, terrific harmonies, and a gritty yet gravitating sound, Cat Bear Tree could very well be the new face of the riot grrrl scene or just indie-rock.
Cat Bear Tree are Zoe Konez (guitar, vocals); Claudia Mansaray (bass, vocals), and Sarah Smith (drums, vocals). Settled In Our Hearts is still streaming on Gigslutz. Three of the four tracks are also available in this article or on the band’s SoundCloud page. The album officially drops on Friday, October 23rd.
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