Review Summary: A solid album that seems so effortless in its grooves and contours that it brushes the classic status it subconsciously wanted to reach.
Well, boys and girls, jot it down in the history books that the Indie hype train made a major stop at Merriweather Post Pavilion
in January, threw a little parade, and then chugged its way forward again without making another big stop until May with Grizzly Bear’s very own Veckatimest
. It’s kind of like this year’s musical The Dark Knight
, except the differences between the two couldn’t be more distinct. Whereas Christopher Nolan hoped to achieve a modern film classic, Edward Droste and his dreamy indie folk band set out only to make a well-rounded and worthwhile record. Whereas Christian Bale and Heath Ledger duke it out in intense, nail-bitten, explosion-ridden skirmishes, the four members of Grizzly Bear caress their listeners with passages of subdued music – sometimes gentle and sometimes upbeat, but never loud. And what is the result but a solid album that sounds so effortless in its grooves and contours that it brushes the classic status it subconsciously wanted to reach.
It is a euphoric place where one can hide for fifty minutes without being found, a happy little sequestered haven unbeknownst to the rest of the busy world, and Grizzly Bear invites us there in brilliant opener “Southern Point.” Over soft acoustics and electronics, vocalist Daniel Rossen sings sometimes with a whisper, sometimes triumphantly, but always with confidence. After a few short minutes, “Southern Point” concludes with a jaw dropping climactic explosion of colorful reverb, best likened to a transcendental fireworks display, before ending in an acoustic guitar outro. Having built up massive amounts of steam, why would the band let up there? Infectiously poppy and melodic, memorable single “Two Weeks” begins Veckatimest
’s near-perfect flow which is later solidified. I must confess: “Two Weeks” is perhaps the year’s most flawless pop tune, backed by piano and smooth vocal hooks, and I doubt we’ll see anything as fun to sing along to for a good while.
Choirs, orchestral movements, and layers upon layers of indie rock music permeate the remainder of the album’s thirteen cuts, and the very breadth in scope of the territory explored here is admirable. Seemingly conscientious of a listener’s tendency to drift when it comes to music so subtle as such found within Grizzly Bear’s, the musicians’ timing in relation to flow is wonderful. For example, the distorted guitar crescendo of “Fine for Now” effectively breaks the spell cast by the atmospheric “All We Ask” and is suitably followed by two more downtempo tracks before picking up again with the dark, haunting “Ready, Able.” By Veckatimest
’s halfway point, it should become clear: Grizzly Bear are trying to pull a James Joyce on us by creating a textured musical universe so dense it must be revisited constantly. It must be studied. But fear not, for the lyrics aren’t necessarily representative of stream of consciousness (although they are often ambiguous in nature, as expansive as the accompanying tunes themselves) and the overall package is much more accessible than, say, Ulysses
While the middle section suffers a slight dip in quality with the back-to-back “About Face” and “Hold Still,” the closing three tracks revive the album with surprising energy, emotion, and rigor. “While You Wait For the Others” is an undoubted classic, doused with sunshine and grandeur, and is the closest Veckatimest
comes to a straight-up rock song. “I Live With You” is the soundtrack for a Technicolor Walt Disney cartoon on acid, bursting with unbridled passion and a cacophonous conclusion. And then there’s “Foreground,” the album’s heartbreaking conclusion that evokes memories of Radiohead’s “Videotape” in mood and sound. As the choirs sing out Veckatimest
’s final notes, the effect is similar to being awakened from a dream of sorts. Perhaps T.S. Eliot articulated the feeling best in his concluding lines to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea / By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown / Till human voices wake us and we drown.”
Try as I may, I cannot fully describe to you the experience that is Grizzly Bear’s superb third album. Its many nooks and crannies are seemingly innumerable. The quest to discover them lies in your hands, or rather, in your ears. All I know is that, looking back on The Dark Knight
now, one year after its initial release, it seems to lack the sparkle it once had. Its hype had deflated. Veckatimest
is not like that.