First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2010, Volume 17, #5
Written by John Metzger
Wed May 5, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
There is no doubt that the coronation of Grizzly Bear by an assortment of music bloggers and indie-rock magazines happened too early in the band’s career. The group is not yet ready to ascend to a status as lofty as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, or Radiohead. Nevertheless, based upon the strength of its third album Veckatimest, it is easy to see why such a commotion has been raised over the future prospects of the outfit. In short, now that the music industry has stopped doing anything whatsoever to foster artistic growth, the groundbreaking changes that can push the business forward are going to have to be homegrown. With this in mind, Grizzly Bear offers hope for the future of both rock and pop.
It is strange, however, to consider the fact that so many up-and-coming indie acts are enjoying breakthrough success simply by reinvesting in sounds and styles that were formulated more than four decades ago. Grizzly Bear is the latest of these outfits to redeploy them after making only minor modifications. With this in mind, Veckatimest isn’t quite as mold-shattering as many seem to think — which lends credence to the notion that perhaps those who write about rock music ought to learn something about its vast history first. At the same time, though, Grizzly Bear has shown immense artistic growth in its relatively short career. Likewise, its ambition and talent are neither prefabricated nor surrounded by undue hype.
For the record, contemporary influences permeate Veckatimest, too. Yet, even when Grizzly Bear embraces the artists that inhabit certain sections of the current musical climate, it also reaches through them to touch the distant past. From Fleet Foxes, the band draws upon the tightly knit harmonies and hazy folk songs of Crosby, Stills and Nash. Through the grand sophistication of The Polyphonic Spree, Grizzly Bear invokes the orchestral precision of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. Via the swirling atmospherics of Radiohead, the group dips its hand into Pink Floyd’s bag of tricks.
Part of what makes Veckatimest so special is Grizzly Bear’s astounding attention to artistic detail. Ready, Able is laced with a pulsing, metronomic tick. Crashing waves of sound pummel the lustrous harmonies of Fine for Now. Guitar chords strike at the molten folk of Hold Still, pushing against the song’s gentle mourning and beating down the vocals until the weariness that pervades the tune becomes inescapable. Throughout Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear marries carefully refined arrangements to the edginess of its live performances, sculpting sonic landscapes that are as big and sweeping as they are hushed and intimate. Every sound on the album has its place, though the music never feels constrained.
Clearly, Grizzly Bear poured its heart and soul into Veckatimest, approaching the recording of the endeavor with appreciable amounts of openness and sincerity. Just as a prism refracts light, the band breaks sound into emotional hues. The result is an album that is easy to enjoy but challenging to comprehend. Perhaps, with this in mind, Veckatimest’s final track Foreground exudes an aura of quiet meditation, and its final few seconds of utter silence provide the room necessary for contemplating the affair’s restless energy. ½
Of Further Interest...
Veckatimest is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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