My love for Grizzly Bear is relatively recent. Slightly over a year ago, I had ordered tickets with friends to go see a Radiohead show, and this “no-name” group called Grizzly Bear was opening. Clearly, their association with Radiohead was good, but I didn’t know what to expect. So I went out and got myself Yellow House.
I was slightly underwhelmed at first. Power-songs like “Knife” and “Colorado” were instant pleasers, but it was kind of, well, boring.
But I decided to put more effort in. After a few listens, the details slowly started to seep out of each song. Eventually, I reached a point of great excitement with each listen. Now I think “On a Neck, On a Split” is my favorite tune from the album: it wanders brilliantly, finding a new idea with each moment.
After finally falling for Yellow House and then listening to the new output from the band (“Little Brother (Electric)” as well as the debuts of “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Other”), I understood that Grizzly Bear had the potential to be the next great band. But anticipation is not always kind. Expectations are built up, and often just don’t match the end product.
Such was my fear with Veckatimest. After the leak, I will confess that I listened to a few tracks. It was just so tempting, and I understood that I would buy the album anyway. Luckily, these low quality tracks were just the medicine I needed. I could hear sound structures and ideas forming as songs molded and flowed. I knew then that this would be no modern-day Weezer output.
Then I finally got the album. Firstly, the sound quality was very relieving. Tiny details (important to the Grizzly Bear sound) were everywhere, offering incentive to come back. Even more impressive is the brilliant mixing and use of dynamics. Never does Veckatimest fall victim to the loudness war. Instead, the band quietly (but appropriately) performs.
And then there are the songs. Veckatimest is full of amazing songs that are truly unique and distinctly from Grizzly Bear. The whole thing pops out in the beginning with the startlingly jazzy “Southern Point.” This song eventually builds, resulting in thunderous drums through the midsection as vocals blend and sing harmonious words.
From here, the album wanders from idea to idea. There are the poppy songs like “Two Weeks” and “Cheerleader.” Each is an effortless track, full of light notes and memorable melodies.
Then there are the more exploratory pieces including “Dory” and “Ready, Able.” The songs hold moments of instrumental randomness as Grizzly Bear seek out some higher musical state (and often reach it).
Finally there are the showstoppers, all contained in the last few songs of the album. “About Face” follows a sense of loss as a statement repeats: “Time for faith, we thought.” A gently plucking guitar rides above a heavily distorted guitar while the singing devastates with emotion. Closing track “Foreground” is a perfect pick to end the album, lightly setting the listener back down with piano and a sighing choir.
The champion of all tracks is “While We Wait for the Others.” Slightly altered from its original form, the song is amazing. It follows a lyric of romantic end, with the vocals noting, “I’ll ask you kindly to make your way.” Here, the guitars, bass, vocals and drums all combine to output the highest quality song in years. The buildup and guitar burst at the end is alone worth the price of admission.
Veckatimest is one of two indie releases that has features deafening hype on the internet (the other being Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion). Unlike Merriweather, Veckatimest does not rely on the power of a few songs to succeed. Instead, the whole album is a talking point. Each track is distinctively Grizzly Bear, but is also at home within the album.
This kind of continuity and result as a total product is stunning. Previously, I have commented to friends that Grizzly Bear’s next album (then, Veckatimest-to-be) would be a truly great album. That much is now confirmed. If the band continues this rate of progression and exploration, we will be blown away by what comes next next.
But the wandering, exploratory sound of Veckatimest stands strong now. Go out and get this album – the songs are great after the first listen (a true upgrade from Yellow House). Even better: the songs are more impressive after the tenth play. I can only imagine what I’ll find tomorrow.