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June 2, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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Grizzly Bear—Veckatimest

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The last time I felt this much anticipation for an album I was downloading live Radiohead bootlegs during the weeks and months that preceded the release of In Rainbows. I’d imagine that anybody else who watched Grizzly Bear’s advance live performances of ‘While You Wait for the Others’ and ‘Two Weeks’ on YouTube experienced the same sense of hope and excitement about what the rest of Veckatimest might have to offer as I did. Both songs are remarkable works of songcraft, with meticulous arrangements that balance unconventional chord progressions with moments of pure melodic grace.

At the heart of Grizzly Bear’s sound are the four-way vocal harmonies, which are put together with an impeccable sense of structure and timing. Everything, as Yorke would say, is in its right place. The musicianship, the quality of the vocals and the synergy with which the band combine these, and other components, is without peer. As much as has already been written about ‘Two Weeks’, I still can’t help but add a few words of my own. This song is a remarkable encapsulation of baroque pop beauty. I particularly like the way in which Ed Droste’s vocal effortlessly interchanges with the rest of the band’s harmonies (as well as with the backups provided by Beach House’s Victoria Legrand).

“Would you always / Maybe sometimes / Make it easy / Take your time.”

It’s a chorus so beautiful, with a melody so timeless that it’s almost absurd that no one else has come up with it before now. And that’s sort of the key to Grizzly Bear’s genius. As straightforward as their basic formula might be (vocal harmonies + a mix of conventional guitars, bass, drums and keys) they somehow manage to create music that feels familiar while still retaining a sense of striking singularity. It’s a rare blend, and one that we should savor. Compared to their preceding album, Yellow House, Veckatimest sounds more immediate, thanks to a greater emphasis on Christopher Bear’s complex, off-kilter drumming and a more driving set of contributions from Daniel Rossen’s guitar. But that’s not to say this isn’t still a dense work, because after all, anything created with the kind of attention to detail that Grizzly Bear always maintain is bound to take several listens to wholly absorb and appreciate. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mainstream: 4 stars
Indie: 9.0
Kim: Genius

*****

Last week I promised to fill the music section with another round of hip-hop related content. Unfortunately, I encountered a few teething difficulties. First of all, Eminem’s album was so bad I couldn’t even get past the first song, let alone attempt a review of it. Secondly, after much deliberation (and a timely read of Juliet Buckler’s column from last week), I came to the conclusion that Lady Gaga, rather than Kanye West, is the greatest pop star of our generation.

Unfortunately she hasn’t been around for long enough for me to be able to argue her case with any serious amount of conviction, as I believe I would have been able to do for Mr. West. What about that Crackhouse 5 interview then? No luck there either, I’m afraid. In the end I just couldn’t be fucked emailing them. Perhaps next week? I guess it’s time to add Kelvin on Facebook…

That leaves me with the promised unconventional review of Jay-Z’s classic album, The Blueprint. This at least, I have managed to complete. I opted for the Haiku form, since it required the least amount of effort. [KW]

Jay-Z

The Blueprint

Jay-Z claims the throne
with Kanye’s sampled soul and
a watertight flow

Mainstream: 5 Stars
Indie: 10.0
Kim: Genius

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  1. Bruno says:

    Unlike most music these days that may catch my ear immediately, but only gets more predictable and forgetful on multiple listens, Grizzly Bear’s music gets finer with age. Veckatimest takes time to get to know. The first few listens may not immediately sink in. For me, it was around the 5th full listen (yes, I was just drawn to listen to it that much the first day I got it) that it hit me like a bag of bricks: This is brilliant.

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