Cathedral-like harmonies, seductive melodies, enchanting arrays of inspired compositions; whatever that means, but I like it. Daniel Rossen singer songwriter and guitarist of Grizzly bear explain their music in a June 2009 issue of Spin magazine as, “Kind of folky? Kind of spacey? It’s all so intuitive to us”. It is hard to define a group’s work where such elusive compositions are commonplace and arranged with such stunning ease and passion. On their third LP entitled Veckatimest (named after a 16-acre uninhabited island off the coast of Cape Cod where Ed Droste’s family resides), Grizzly Bear pushes ever so harder to produce music that is distinctive and radical without making it another overly excessive folk-prog forgettable. This foundation is not anything new to this band, who in 2006 released an equally perplexing, yet inviting album, Yellow House . However, in Veckatimest the quartet have carved a more palpable picture of what Rossen and Co are trying to achieve.
Yellow House infused dripping, broken-down hollow piped lyrics with beautifully disturbing guitar compositions consumed in knee-deep murky reverb. The album induced the listener into a musical wonderland and dared you to turn the next page and see what was lying in wait. In Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear are more aware of their surroundings and it shows in their idiosyncratic songwriting. Songs like “While You Wait for the Others” where Rossen uses upward swinging reverb strokes to jump start the listener’s dream state. In “Fine for Now”, the group paints an elliptical dreamscape evoking jerky guitar strums, while enhancing the listener’s overall experience utilizing euphoric and translucent harmonies that carry the listener up to the groups’ castles of imagination.
Overall, Veckatimest helps Grizzly Bear accomplish what their previous works failed to achieve, a feeling of completeness. It engages the listener to explore the album from front to back; it tells a story and each song is a chapter building to a satisfying conclusion. Some may feel that Veckatimest is a bit boring; yet it is obvious while listening to this album that the group methodically, brick-by-brick, built each song into a sonically perfect compositional piece. At times the group appears to be more interested in creating a flawless piece of pop art, while leaving out what is most important, evoking emotion from its listeners. Yet, that is what Veckatimest is; a perfectly-flawed album that redefines the parameters of the traditional pop-culture atmosphere. As Droste drowns in a falsetto voice with his head hung low over his piano keys he sings in the album’s last installment “Foreground” with, “Pattern evolving, motion insolvent, something about this might take all evening, I’ll just be cleaning”. Whatever that means, but I like it.
review by Kelsey Phillips