Project Description

GRIZZLY BEAR

“Painted Ruins”

(Album Review) 23/08/17

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Grizzly Bear

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Appreciating Grizzly Bear is a meandering affair. The hyphen indie band of art-rock, prog-folk, psych-indie et all produce musical compositions that quietly invites people on a meditative journey. When I saw them last at New York’s Radio City Hall in promotion of their successful 2012 Shields, they put on a show that almost compelled the audience to stay seated and just let the sound of the Brooklyn band wash over them.

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Five years on, Grizzly Bear have come back into the fray with Painted Ruins, a glorious album with densely layered production that drifts leisurely into other lanes, eventually righted back to centre by the choral timbre of Ed Droste’s voice. Previously whilst Shields, and Veckatimest (2009) felt like a deep underwater descent into the maw of contemplation, new offering – Painted Ruins feels like we are finally beginning the ascent back up to the surface.

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On the whole the album is piqued with alacrity. Songs like Losing All Sense would almost be considered perky in the Grizzly Bear world and moves at a spirited pace however on the whole there is no lighthouse track for this album as was the case with Two Weeks and the tumbling Sleeping Ute.  Even Mourning Sound with all its darker dujour 80s analogue synths and nuwave appeal, settles in rather than stands out. This lack of a notable, hooky track probably means this album won’t immediately win them a plethora of new fans but one gets the sense that has never been the MO of this band. Those who do give this album attention will be rewarded with an experience that is uniquely Grizzly Bear.

Take a listen to Four Cypresses and you can hear how Grizzly Bear have carved out their space. As with most of their music, Four Cypresses and subsequent track Aquarian create soundscapes of theatrical restraint. Listen quietly and you’ll notice how Christopher Bear’s drum parts are on point, jazzy and deftly delivered. Daniel Rossen and Chris Taylor’s guitars act as golden flashpoints, punctuating the dreamy keyboard and angelic unheralding that happens with Droste’s poetic lyrics. In short this a band of very capable and highly attuned musicians.

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Grizzly Bear

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Almost understanding the need for a textural component in an album that swirls around the listener, Cut-Out and Neighbors are literally cut from the same cloth, but without all the usual Grizzly Bear flourishes, the songs just plays it straight, content for Droste to take the reigns. Breaking that surface with finale Sky Took Hold, we’re asked, “Who am I beneath the surface, hiding out for so long in my mind”, which in a circumnavigate way answers the initial question posed by opener Wasted Acres, “Trusted friend, tell me what you need / Why would you even stay here?” We stay because Grizzly Bear facilitates the opportunity of reflection and no one does it quite as lusciously as them.

8/10

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