Sam Killed the Bear is the kind of band who lives or dies on listeners’ perceptions of the past. This isn’t to say they are mired entirely in the past, merely that they are mining a specific vein of rock ‘n’ roll that swept the alternative landscape in the mid- to late ’90s—imagine Modest Mouse sharing the stage with Semisonic, and you have a good idea of the sounds we’re talking about. But there is a vividness to these notes and tones that gives them unexpected weight and momentum. You’d expect their music to be more dated, given their obvious influences, but the band never wallows in its inspirations and is constantly moving forward.
On their latest song, “Desflurane,” they whip together a rollicking guitar line with an impressive vocal melody that shifts from one rhythmic track to the next midstream. It’s ebullient and seems destined to become your next favorite radio hit. The band is definitely hitting some alt rock nostalgia here, but “Desflurane” isn’t simply the result of a late-night binge of Eve 6 and Better Than Ezra. There’s a real dedication to craft and influence that keeps the song from becoming bogged down under the weight of its origins. Roll the windows down and imagine that it’s 1998 again—the music will do the rest.