Monday, July 6, 2009

Out of Season: Grizzly Bear

Some one who knows me well told me recently that I was "so moody" about music. His comment referred to my seasonal (music) affect disorder which basically means that I randomly think of certain music belonging to certain seasons. This tends to mean that if I get an album at a certain time of year that I might otherwise like, my reaction might be a bit cool if it is "out of season" so to speak.
This was clearly the case with the Fleet Foxes, for example. While everyone was going gaga last year over them, I just couldn't get into the album (but wisely noted that I should put it away for a bit). Sure enough, earlier this year during a few months when the Capital City basically turned into Portland, I returned to the Foxes and fell in love with the album. In that spirit, I am going to start a new category of post for albums that I recognize as having a lot of quality or potential, but that I fear might not be getting my full appreciation for the simple and random reason that it is just not the right season in my brain.
First up in that category is the new album by Grizzly Bear--and you thought this post was about hunting didn't you?! Veckatimest (apparently named after a small Massachusetts island) is getting really consistently solid reviews from all over the place and only a few listens will tell you why. It is both complex and interesting and definitely a unique blend of sounds and styles which is a bit of a challenge to describe. Imagine starting with the Beach Boys of Pet Sounds, throw in some pensive Walkmen guitar work, perhaps a bit of Flaming Lips synth and bass work here and there, a certain 70's vibe, a touch (just a touch) of Gabriel era Genesis, then add some glam-rock like vocals (although I can't real pin down one vocal comparison) and a choir, and maybe, just maybe, you get a sense of it all.
The tunes are mostly mid-tempo with lots of layers of both music and vocals and most with many different mini-movements to them. The front end of the disc is a wonderful set of five tunes that if I had this on vinyl might mean that the flip side might not see the needle very often. The back half have some strong pieces, but Pitchfork nails it in their review of the middle of the album.
Save "Cheerleader" and the lilting "Ready, Able", the stretch between "Fine for Now" and "While You Wait" wanders a bit; certain moments, like Rossen's "swim around like two dories" line and the wispy, wheezing "About Face", hit harder than others. But you'll be looking for a while to find anybody who thinks the center of Veckatimest is as strong as the stuff surrounding it.
That said, this is still obviously going to be one of those albums that a whole lot of folks talk about this year and I suspect at the end of the year when those inevitable lists get made.
So, wait, wasn't this supposed to be about my ambivalence or something? Well, the truth is that as much as I appreciate the album (and as some in my household might point out, I have listened to it "a lot") it is going into the wait for Fall pile because ultimately it makes me think of the kind of album you listened to as a hip new college band. Not a bar band--no, no--but rather one of those albums that is always on at some one's party, in a dorm room or college apartment, cuz, well, it is hip. I don't mean this in a superficial, hipster way--but rather to say that this album is, in fact, very cool--like an autumn weekend afternoon hanging with friends.
For those of you who don't suffer from my version of SMAD and think you might want to pick up some cool, hip Brooklyn-based tunes now, here are some samples which I think cover the range from the poppy beginning to the slower-tempo tunes and on to some more jangly guitar pieces.

Veckatimest (Buy Album)

Two Weeks
Fine for Now
While You Wait for the Others
Update: Had to take the mp3's down as they were getting pulled from Box, so I am trying to avoid my first Google take down since returning. Check out GB music here instead.

1 comment:

mu said...

Hmm....moody music. Well, I must say a big thank you for the Fleet Foxes as that is the best new stuff I have heard in a long time. I am an iImmediate groveling convert wishing i was 20 something with talent.

Btw, check out their so called black cab sessions in a London cab on utube. Spooky good and creative on the fly. In any event, here is to your seasonal malady paying big dividends come fall. Thanks for all...