Music Reviews

Grizzly Bear Veckatimest

(Warp) Rating - 9/10

With two six packs in the refrigerator, two friends listen to Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest and, afterward, discuss its merits. One friend is an indie rock-loving hipster with skinny jeans and a obsession with bands like Animal Collective, TV on the Radio and Band of Horses. The other is a rock fanatic who, though open-minded toward experimental folk rock, has little tolerance for pretension. This is their conversation.

Indie Hipster: What did you think of Southern Point? Is it just me or did that song rock a lot more than anything off Yellow House? It’s got to be one of my favorite compositions they’ve done. With all those eye-of-hurricane dynamic swells, that piece completely blew me away.

Rock Fanatic: Sure, but I knew better than to get too excited. That’s what albums do now: start off with the coolest, fastest, most hard-hitting track and then delve into slow, introspective soundscapes. I loved that harmonized acoustic guitar solo, though. Didn’t that sound like something Yes would bust out?

IH: Definitely. Oh, wait. If it sounds like Yes, I’m not sure I’m supposed to say I like it. How’s your Budweiser?

RF: Good enough. How’s your handcrafted triple I.P.A. brewed with imported cloudberries?

IH: Complex, but subtle. Speaking of which, I loved the second song. Remember those harmonies and how they weave together, climbing up and up like that? That track is like a hammock for your brain, and all you can do while listening to it is kick back and chill.

RF: That was Two Weeks, right? I think I saw the video for that one. Isn’t it the one where they’re sitting in a church, and there’s no real way to know whether they are playing pedophiles or victims of pedophiles? That doesn’t make me think of kicking back. It makes we think of running the hell away. In fact, it makes me think that maybe there’s some kind of creepy undercurrent to the song that I’m not picking up.

IH: Maybe, but you’re probably reading into it too much. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the song itself. A nine-year-old could play that piano part, but those quarter notes are the pulse of the song, and the harmonies are the respiration. It’s part of what makes this band so organic.

RF: If they’re so organic, why do they use all that electronic noise in their albums, like they did on Yellow House?

IH: Okay, maybe organic isn’t the right word, and besides, there’s not nearly as much noise on this album as the others. But who cares if all the parts make complete sense together? Just listen to that a cappella section and how well their voices work together. I bet if Fleet Foxes covered Two Weeks it would rain frogs.

RF: Whoa, don’t get carried away, man. By the way, my head kind of hurts. Do you have any Excedrin?

IH: I’m not surprised. You slept through about four of the songs in the middle. It probably had something to do with the five Buds you drank in the course of the first half of the album. Also, you were moaning a lot in your sleep, and you sounded happy. Were you having that dream about the Hold Steady concert again?

RF: I’m sorry, but those songs were just so mellow. Maybe we shouldn’t have been drinking beer while listening to it. It all made me really sleepy. What did I miss?

IH: Look, this music is made for active listening. Just try and absorb all the different parts that are going on at once, and you’ll appreciate it.

RF: I do appreciate it, and I recognize that it’s technically amazing music. Just from listening to those hooks on While You Were Waiting for the Others and the section where there’s all that melodic and rhythmic interplay in the vocals, it’s clear they’re brilliant musicians. Just like the last album made me feel like I was on the porch of some backwoods cabin, this one makes me feel like I’m on a ship deck off some New England coast, and with Waiting for the Others, the band definitely evokes quite a storm. It’s gorgeous, but it feels like these guys are more interested in creating textures and conveying moods than writing songs.

IH: I guess it’s very baroque in that way.

RF: Meaning?

IH: There’s an abundance of ornamentation.

RF: Ah, elitism.

IH: It’s not elitist if it actually is better than almost any other pop music out there. This one is probably the closest rival to Merriweather Post Pavilion we’ve heard this year.

RF: I don’t know. I’m just not sure about this one yet. Obviously it’s good. We’ll just need to keep listening to it over and over before we can come up with any meaningful assessment. It all seems a bit front-loaded, too. The first two songs are the most accessible work Grizzly Bear’s ever done, and those tracks alone are enough to make Veckatimest worth several listens. Most of this album, though, is going to take way more effort to get into.

IH: It’s worth it.

RF: I’m sure.