Five years into their existence, Bed's name seems so fitting, it's basically become a prophecy.
Comprising husband and wife Alex and Sierra Haager, the Portland shoegaze duo took their time releasing their debut album, Replay. In 2016, Bed placed in WW's Best New Band poll, dropped their debut EP, which earned glowing reviews from local media, and got a bump from NPR's All Songs Considered. That same year, Bed all but finished Replay, their first full-length, with legendary local engineer Larry Crane.
The momentum was deceiving. For two years, the release of Replay remained on hold. The Haagers continued to run their PR company, Breakup Records, had their first child and briefly relocated to Eugene. From the outside, it looked a little as if Bed had ridden a wave of hype right into the doldrums.
It wasn't until last spring that the duo released the lead single and title track off Replay, and it's not until this week that the album will be released via Bug Hunt. Now that the album has finally materialized, the delay seems totally fitting. Replay trades delicate, ethereal lo-fi for a sound that's as blurry-eyed as it is resolute.
Album opener "First One" is as close to buoyant as the album gets. There are climbing guitars and crashing drums, and like any good shoegaze anthem, it's addictively nostalgic and a bit remorseful. "We had all kinds of ideas back then/But the first one was the best," the Haagers harmonize on the chorus.
The shoegaze market has been so oversaturated for so long, seas of reverb and chugging basslines have come to sound like a default. Bed has never claimed to reinvent anything, and the center chunk of Replay kind of melds into a haze of fuzzy guitars and bouncy melodies. But for the most part, Replay uses the shoegaze mold instead of just succumbing to it, and there are many of moments when angst cuts through the malaise. On the title track, Sierra sings with what sounds like a yell compared with her normally measured register. "Girl" is an extremely catchy and deceivingly sweet song that bites back against the pressure placed on women to be mild, while sad-sack anthems like "Fine" sound like the feeling of almost having a good day.
With songs like "Girl" and the sardonic "Guys," which addresses gender expectations, it often feels as if Bed is striving for relevance. But Replay is more of a heavy sigh than a rallying cry, and it's strongest when its poignancy seems incidental, like when Alex proclaims, "I hate rock 'n' roll" on "Instant Xmas."
That's what makes Replay satisfying, though—it's not exactly upbeat or defeated, but the sound of slogging onward even when everything sucks. On the chorus of the album's closer, "Void," the Haagers harmonize: "I'm alive to stay beside you/I will ride through the void till we die." Even if that's not exactly optimism, it's close enough.
SEE IT: Bed plays Polaris Hall, 635 N Killingsworth Court, polarishall.com, with the Domestics and Small Million, on Saturday, Dec. 15. 8 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+.