Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
Record Label: Warp Records
Release Date: May 26, 2009
Progress is a funny thing.
Ask most bands about their new material and they’ll go to great lengths about their growth as musicians and as people. Whether they’re turning over a new leaf or simply refining an already developed sound, they’re always moving forward. Such is the nature of life, musical business notwithstanding: as we experience more and more of it, we grow.
There’s a point, though, at which the music business becomes idiosyncratic and this has to do more with the listener than with the musician(s). As fans, we often link the moment at which we first experienced our favorite bands with their “sound” (i.e., what they have and should always sound like). Bands can talk until they’re blue in the face about progress, but if their new music isn’t in large part an incarnation of their ‘original’ sound, we’re not pleased. We say things like, “sure, this album is solid, but it’s nothing compared to _______.” Unfair as it may be, it’s both natural and unavoidable.
The bands that are often the most impressive are those that continue to progress and redefine their sound while consistently releasing superlative material in the eyes of their fans. With the release of full-length studio albums in 2004 and 2006, Brooklyn, NY’s Grizzly Bear was gradually building a name for themselves with a unique, subtly addictive blend of folk, indie rock, and chamber pop. Just as Yellow House supplanted Horn of Plenty as the premium Grizzly Bear material, so has Veckatimest set the new gold standard and this one will be difficult to denigrate.
Fans of the Bear will quickly notice that a much sunnier disposition permeates throughout Veckatimest, as opposed to its predecessors. Sure, there are some moments of atmospheric moodiness (note especially the persistent rhythms and flourishes of “Ready, Able”), but in general, light seems to touch corners that were not previously reached. While this is perhaps most prevalent in the peppy jazz of album opener “Southern Point” and the effervescent vocals that flit in and out of “Cheerleader,” there is one track that rises above the ranks in its sheer, toe-tapping brilliance. Opening with fresh keys that carry the beat throughout, “Two Weeks” absolutely shimmers, easily securing it a spot atop the list of Grizzly Bear’s finest radio-friendly tunes.
Old Schoolers need not fret, there’s enough clever and less-than-accessible composition here to please the Berkeley freshmen. “All We Ask” moves from murky strings to chamber strings in a minute’s time, pleasing with pop before drifting back into the shadows. The band murmurs “I can’t get out/ Of what I’m into with you” over toms, handclaps, and electronic muttering as the tune just fades away. “Fine for Now” brings startlingly well-executed melodies before kicking things up a notch with distorted solos and screaming crash cymbals. The sparse and bubbly “Dory” is downright aquatic and the upbeat rock of “While You Wait for the Others” could be single #2. I would continue, but there’s too much here that’s done right to really cover it all.
With excellent songwriting and superlative production in every direction, Veckatimest is one of those special albums. Very few people will have the guts to drawl through another “oh, it’s good, but I like their older stuff better.” There’s no getting around it on this one. If they fit into any one genre, we’d all be able to nod our heads contentedly and say that Grizzly Bear had sufficiently redefined that genre. Since we’re out of luck there, let’s just say that Grizzly Bear has continued to raise the bar in the world of music and Veckatimest is one of this year’s finest.
Travis your becoming one of my favorite reviewers on this site. I get the feeling this album will really become a great summer record to just "chill out" to. Great review and I will comment more once I get my hands on this release.
Absolutely love Grizzly Bear, I do prefer Yellow House (I have listened to that album well over 150 times) but this is probably my favorite cd of the year so far. My favorite part of the album is the line in Cheerleader where he sings "I should've made it matter."
Going to see them June 2 and I couldn't be more excited.