Jeremy Enigk floundered a bit after coming out of the gate incredibly strong: The world first knew him as the inimitable voice behind Sunny Day Real Estate, the emo progenitor whose first two albums have stood the test of time. A strange split derailed things: Enigk went Christian, to the consternation of some of his bandmates, though he went on to release an incredible solo debut, the orchestra-enhanced Return Of The Frog Queen. But the past dozen years have been hit-or-miss, to put it kindly: A Sunny Day reunion fizzled, as did a regrouping with two members as The Fire Theft. Another solo album, 2006’s World Waits, sounded flat and uninspired, even with the secret weapon of Enigk’s dramatic voice.
OK Bear, by some small miracle, seems to pick up at a point before Enigk got so damn confused—somewhere after 1998’s How It Feels To Be Something On, the first SDRE reunion set. This disc, like that one, strikes a balance between Enigk’s desire for gentle orchestration and his urge to rock: “Late Of Camera” crashes and bashes—not like those early records, but it’s something—while “Sant Feliu De Guixols” is slow, simple, and beautiful. Enigk still gets into the danger zone occasionally with his lyrics (“Mind Idea” is the actual name of a song), but for those rooting for a return to form, OK Bear should work perfectly.