"Veckatimest" by Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest

Warp Records
2009

Review

It's tough to call this album Rock because it is almost down-tempo Electronic music performed with Rock and Orchestral instruments. Whatever it is, it is brilliant and excellently crafted music.

You might have a "first time listening to TV On The Radio" moment when you hear this album because it sounds so different from anything you hear on the radio (or, um, see on TV) these days. There are so many influences here that it is really difficult to give a summary of their sound in words (the words "Acoustic Radiohead" come to mind, but I really hate to simplify this record that much). Musically there is just so much going on in each track. We get the standard Rock instruments (guitar, bass, and drums) but layered in on top of that are plenty of orchestral instruments that all create these moody, ever-changing, soundscapes. There are plenty of vocal harmonies as well and the singing meshes beautifully with the rest of the music. This is probably the most intriguing record I've listened to in 2009. I mean, I don't want this to sound like a backhanded compliment at all, but it is apparent that these guys know how to play their instruments. There is so much music on this record that it blew me away from first listen. I loved how there is no single dominating instrument and how each song considers each element to be integral to the existence of the whole.

Every track on the album has the band creating compositions rather than just mere songs. The songs are deliberately down-tempo affairs that focus more on building towards musical crescendos rather than to create catchy hooks and choruses. I could see this as being a turnoff for most people, but for music lovers this is a hearty serving of music that is nutritious and delicious.

The few songs that don't work for me on the album fail me not because of the construction but because they are a bit too ponderous and slow-paced for me (I speak specifically of "Dory", "Hold Still", and "I Live With You") and I wanted them to arrive the way that the best songs on the album do.

As for the rest of the album though, just really, really brilliant stuff. "Ready, Able" may be one of the most well-constructed songs I've heard in a long while. Actually, the opening six songs are all amazing and create a very strong first impression on the album.

This album is nothing less than great musicians making great music. Can you dance to it? Probably not. Unless it's raining outside and you're planning to slow dance with a special someone. Can you sing Karaoke to it? Again, probably not unless its last call and you want to sing the album closer "Foreground". Just make sure you have the chops to sing it. But if you are a fan of Radiohead's acoustic sound or the more somber moments of the Cold War Kids, then definitely give the album a listen.

...this is my early vote for best album of 2009. Yeah, I said it.

4.333 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Southern Point (05:02) 5
2. Two Weeks (04:03) 5
3. All We Ask (05:21) 5
4. Fine for Now (05:31) 5
5. Cheerleader (04:54) 5
6. Dory (04:26) 3
7. Ready, Able (04:17) 5
8. About Face (03:21) 4
9. Hold Still (02:24) 3
10. While You Wait for the Others (04:29) 4
11. I Live With You (04:57) 3
12. Foreground (03:35) 5