Thursday, July 9, 2009

Record Review: Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

So far, Veckatimest is one of my favorite records of the year. Seeing Grizzly Bear for the first time at Bonnaroo was a complete thrill; I was so happy! Ed Droste is a hypnotic vocalist, and Christopher Bear's live drumming is formidable and overzealous and fantastic!

When I came back, I got to agonize over a review of the album for Stomp and Stammer. What came out was unintentionally kind of a thesis. Hope you like!

Grizzly Bear

It takes a long time to get submerged in a Grizzly Bear record. The band name itself deceives. No reckless, territorial aggression to be found here – no claws – only beauty and calculation, careful diction and studiedly released energy. The first few listens always reveal, to me at least, only the textures used and not the content. The reedy, blended treble they favor sounds like some ensemble of minstrels dancing atop an intermittently used giant bass drum. (Idea for a video, maybe?) When I’ve only gotten my feet wet, the immediacy of Grizzly Bear records doesn’t feel as apparent to me as it must to those who always gush about them.

But then something happens. On the 15th-ish listen, suddenly I’ve plunged under and all the waves of brilliance start rushing past. Veckatimest, of their work so far, is all but a tsunami. (To be fair, listening on cranked-up headphones helps, too.) Packing the punch possibly lacking in the gorgeous Yellow House and the eclectic Friend EP while still just as pretty, Veckatimest exhibits loudly the Brooklyn quartet’s abilities with theme exploration and the manipulation of audience tension. Lead-off track “Southern Point” seems a microcosm of this with its backing strings and barreling chorus, alternately gentle and jarring. Each track develops a melody or two and repeats, changing a bit each time, and often sprouts into a large, thrilling B-section or coda at the end. (Come to think of it, Grizzly Bear is exactly why you should never judge a song on its first few seconds.) They’re no less exciting for their predictability, mostly because the band ornaments absolutely everything. It sounds like they’d hang Christmas baubles on the pointy parts of their songs if they could.

Take, for example, the ostensible stand-out “Two Weeks.” As catchy as the group gets, the song just repeats the bouncy keyboard melody and soaring vocal backing (featuring Beach House’s Victoria Legrand) over and over. Here’s the thing, though: the arrangement is different absolutely every time the theme reprises. It’s the final touch that makes the song not just something hipsters can dance to, but a powerhouse composition in its own right. Same goes for “All We Ask” and “While You Wait For The Others.” Sure, they’re transcendent pop songs, but they’re effing fascinating, too!...[Read more]

If for any reason you haven't heard it yet:


bazookaluca said...

Excellent review. I like this album a lot even though I'm only on my third listen. We'll see where I stand on my 15th-ish time.

Juliar said...

Haha thanks. Hang in there, it's coming!

Andrea said...

I like this album!
Thank you.