Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest

8/10

grizzly-bear-veckatimest-cover.jpg

We’re all allowed our opinions, this is one of the fantastic things about freedom of speech within modern society, but at what point do we not care about the opinions of others? In other words, how many “Top Twenty Albums of the Year” lists can we actually deal with? It seemed like the ultimate accessory for the hipster blog last year, systematically throwing together the most-hyped albums of the past 12 months, as if we are all adequately qualified to judge the best and worst ourselves, as opposed to leaving it all down to Rolling Stone magazine or whatever. Doubtless the trend will continue through to this year and Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear’s latest effort Veckatimest will more than likely be sitting atop these lists alongside Animal Collective’s Meriwether Post Pavilion and The Horrors’ Primary Colours, and for very good reason. For once, the critics and bloggers are labelling Veckatimest as a legitimate Indie record, instead of throwing the dreaded ‘I’ word around as a catchphrase regardless of stylistic necessity; the album even features acoustic guitar. I mean, Jesus, really? Acoustic guitar? Unbelievable…

Something that is notably different from their previous releases is the fact that Grizzly Bear have toned-down the reverb-heavy guitars of old and replaced them with weighty doses of orchestral flourishes and off-kilter fuzz that manage to portray an odd juxtaposition that strangely works well throughout the album. Thankfully the strongest element of the band has remained on this record in the form of Ed Droste’s fantastically swooning voice that permeates every track. ‘Southern Point’ starts the album off with a smooth, almost Beirut-like jaunt fleshed together by exquisite guitar parts that set the standard for the rest of the record, followed by first single ‘Two Weeks’ with its lemonade-popsicle-California-bikini-surfing-flirting-Beach-Boys-harmonies and stuttering drum fills that, on paper, would not make the greatest single but strangely (like the rest of the album) manages to become a beacon of discordant unanimity. Stand-out tracks are by far ‘Ready, Able’ (recently and fantastically performed on The Late Show) and the stunningly orchestrated closer ‘Foreground’ that finishes tantalisingly too soon with the heavenly breaths of the Brooklyn Youth Choir.

Alas, the album teems with a sort of prep-school pomposity, like Grizzly Bear have found their feet but don’t want to leave the comfort of the beach as the sun goes down, the will to disappear in to the night lost upon childish naivety smothered in an orchestral lack of wanderlust. Despite the sheer eloquence and lush fluency about it, Veckatimest suffers a fatal flaw, although not severe, that leaves one lacking a vital something that makes an album so quintessentially great: emotion. There is no ambiguity to the soul of the song, nothing that leaves its mark in terms of relative resonance; Droste’s lyrics leaving perhaps a bit much open to interpretation. One thing that Grizzly Bear do well albeit is the music, flawless and yet somehow tarnished, positive yet with enough innuendo to console event the darkest at heart. So, is this album perfect? No, not quite. Is this album worth a high placing in the ‘Top Ten Albums of 2009? Well, of course. They come from Brooklyn after all.

-James Donaldson

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