Single: Chinese American Bear – Feelin’ Fuzzy (毛绒绒的感觉)

Feelin’ Fuzzy is a perfect name for this song. This music seemed initially designed to make me feel like I was losing my grip on reality- feeling fuzzy indeed; the cyclical and slippery guitars forming strange repetitive shapes that don’t ever quite relent in their assault. It sounds like something incredibly familiar but also unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. But I have to say, cognitive collapse aside, I like this very much indeed. 

The musical world of married couple, Bryce Barsten and Anne Tong, Chinese American Bear are nominally a C-pop duo, but this idiosyncratic, bilingual playground of pop song-craft has its feet firmly planted in the realms of American, sugar-coated, indie-pop too. Released on 29th May on Moshi Moshi Records, this Seattle-based duo’s sound world is sure to intrigue and excite the ears of many open-minded listeners; it clearly already has. 

There’s a twee-pop sensibility to the vocal delivery and the childlike melody, mirroring as it does those insanity-inducing guitar cycles. Then there’s this odd, ambient distortion in the middle which feels decidedly detached- the spoken word sections, outside of my linguistic understanding, but designed to reflect upon and respond to what lyricist Tong sees as the impossibly high standards of her childhood home. “I had a stereotypical tiger mom who had very high academic expectations and set very strict household rules,” she explains. “I have very vivid memories of my mom reminding me to study and practise over and over again, and I wanted to capture that repetitiveness in this song. I’m hoping other kids of immigrants can relate!” 

Indeed, in these moments she is in fact mimicking her mother’s commonly cried clarion call of, “Do your homework, practice piano, no playing, keep studying.” The music that gathers before and after is a clear reflection of the contrasting, coalescing themes – this is drunken, delirious and deranged stuff. This song then is both surprising sonically but also in lyrical purpose. There’s more to this than initially meets the ear.  Heavy words, lightly thrown. 

“…Oh man I’m feeling fuzzy.” 

There’s a continued sense of longing for those unattended parties and missed wild nights that are described here, that lifts the emotive impact unexpectedly. There seem also to be curious additional reference points in the subtle soundscapes that penetrate at times – those cymbals clashing and vocal-percussive utterances intruding in the musical interludes – adding to the glorious hubbub. The bass does wonderful work across this song as well- at once sinuous, trance-like and throbbing- it seems to mirror the different states of desired, if fictional, inebriation hinted at throughout. 

There is a wild and slightly chaotic approach to songwriting evident here- sounds and rhythms stuck together in surprising ways – reflecting a certain joy in the possibilities of cross-cultural collisions. It’s just tremendous stuff and sounds like an awful lot of fun was had in bringing it into existence. Thank you Chinese American Bear! You have brightened my night with your infectious pop oddity! May it brighten many more doors too.

Written by M.A Welsh (Misophone)