Thursday, July 23, 2009


Band: Grizzly Bear
Album: Veckatimest
Best song: "Two Weeks" is a delight and "Fine For Now" is amazing.
Worst song: "Hold Still" isn't great.

In describing St. Vincent to a friend recently, I mentioned that Annie Clark used to work with Sufjan Stevens on some of his records. Similarly, in old conversations with my late best friend, he used to complain about the irony-laden theatrics of Stevens' records.

People don't love Stevens' work for understandable reasons. I've mentioned in this and other spaces about my hatred for things that sound like showtunes. Stevens treads a very difficult line,

But, this isn't about Stevens. It's about Grizzly Bear, indie rock "it" band of the past few years (well, no, that's probably Animal Collective). The Brooklyn band has been near the top of every critic's list since the band's 2004 debut, Horn of Plenty. Lo-fi and pretty, Ed Droste made the record, essentially, in his bedroom alone. Droste has since filled out the band.

Grizzly Bear, in a lot of ways, is a post-Sufjan band. Veckatimest, named after an island in Massachusetts, is theatric and far-reaching. The record is ambitious, though not annoying so. The string arrangements are stellar and the keyboard combinatons make for something that sounds -- and I mean this in the best possible way -- a low-key great Elton John record, only with vocals that sound like a normal human's.

The jazz opening of "Southern Point" opens the album with the genre hopping evident of the band. "Ready, Able" moves from the soft pleasantries of Droste's vocals to a swelling guitar piece to a lilting harpsichord bit (I think it's a harpsichord. "About Face" has a Nick Drake-esque vocal. The harmonies "While You Wait for the Others" are rivaled only by those on the rollicking single "Two Weeks." "I Live With You" is low-key until the band explodes undeer a guitar/drum countdown-esque brush, with the song eventually using song-effect-sounding vntage keyboards to accent the cacophony at the end of the record. "Cheerleader" is an easy slink and features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, drawing one of the albums more sonically evocative tracks.

But, the band's easy relationship-based songwriting holds the record together. Relying on easy phrasing and repetition, the band's lyrics are emotional and delivered with an emotional ferocity lost in similarly lambasted "boring" music. On "Fine For Now," for example, Droste's "There was time, it took time" chorus lines ring true while "Two Weeks" has the less self-confident chorus:

Would you always
Maybe sometimes
Make it easy
Take your time

It's the stage of breakup we've all felt. It's the desperation, the lyric bargains for just a bit of understanding. It's the notion that the one person is simply trying and trying to be something untenable, the perfect boy/girlfriend for the other person. S/he is doing the best s/he can, but it's not enough and it's too hard. But, indeed, cutting it off would be devastating. Time is needed for the Sisyphian task of becoming a better mate.

Maybe I'm reading too much into that lyric. It's the best song on a great album. Evocative, upbeat an pretty, "Two Weeks" is the highlight of Veckatimest.

Creepy video:

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