Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest is the underdog records of the year. Despite the fact it was well sculpted and developed the ever-growing sound from a band that had matured from their time with the likes of Radiohead, no-one rated Grizzly Bear’s latest efforts with much acclaim. As the ‘end of 2009’ lists prove, critics gave it a curt nod, a pat on the back and that was all, with middling positions in most lists, it would seem the critics were reluctant to indulge in a band who weren’t ‘exciting’ enough for the general music public. Perhaps, Grizzly Bear’s newest album reveals, that in many ways, their greatest strength is their greatest weakness as well. With their mid-paced and enchanting sound, Grizzly Bear both allured and alienated in equal measures because their sound wasn’t overtly gripping and took several listens to truly appreciate the composure of the album... Music critics of the world united in using the same catchphrases when reviewing Veckatimest; ‘redefining Americana’, ‘Male choir, using interesting yet familiar harmonies’, ‘Used to be Droste’s Solo project and is now an actual band’. All of which I feel sells the album a tad short, because above all this was an album that stressed its musical ideas in order to guarantee they were heard. The true brilliance of Veckatimest is that the arrangement shied away from the grandeur that accompanied Yellow House and truly embraced the elaborateness of subtly. However, to think of Veckatimest as an album of singular direction underappreciated the way in which Grizzly Bear is band of musical individuals who each add their own element... As the band’s primary founder, Ed Droste has clearly had the most growing to do of all the band members, and with Veckatimest; he has moved from the band’s leader to the band’s democratic representative, so to speak. Droste still writes intimate, striking songs that dominate the album, but he has put his talent on the backburners in order to accentuate the rest of the band’s contributions. Droste’s step back has allowed him to realize the strength of the dormant band supporting him. Daniel Rossen’s expertise may stem to Department of Eagles as well as Grizzly Bear, but in no sense is he overstretched. Rossen delivers a song writing approach that adds directness and prominence that Droste’s lacks, or rather complements. Although, there is a clear difference between Droste and Rossen’s songs, Veckatimest merges the two until they become virtually indistinguishable. Collectively, Rossen and Droste create a formidable partnership; Droste the singer and Rossen the musician, their skill in their respective fields allows for them to culminate songs that flourish thanks to this partnership... The ‘Christ Rhythm Section’ is the unsung character of this album. Firstly, Chris Taylor acts as more than just a bassist, or multi-musician; he is also the producer behind the immensity of Grizzly Bear’s colossal arrangement. He takes the materials provided for him, i.e. Droste, Rossen and Bear and uses them to paint the masterpiece that is Veckatimest behind the mixing desk. Taylor pools together the bands collective talent to funnel it into a direct focus that comes to define Grizzly Bear. Furthermore, Chris Bear is the forgotten member of the band; his sparse yet inventive drumming style provides a backbone to the album that allows it to grow into its identity. Shunning conventional drumming styles he adopts one that is a versatile and as creative as the Droste and Rossen’s song writing partnership. Oddly, or probably not, his drumming style matches his personality; it avoids the limelight and plays its part brilliantly but invisibly. Bear’s overall contribution is that he is the spice to the recipe of Veckatimest, crude analogy I know, but the annoying thing about minimalism is that it leaves you with little to say... Nestled amid the likes of alternative minimalism (Phoenix, the XX, GIRLS), experimental psychedelia (Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Flaming Lips) and amalgamations of the two (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bat for Lashes, Fever Ray) Grizzly Bear were left without a home to call their own. They occupied an area with little in the way of company, which ultimately meant they went relatively ignored. The great shame of Veckatimest was that it lacks immediate impact and lost the critical battle against other acts because public opinion simply wanes from an act as isolated as Grizzly Bear are. Veckatimest’s isolation ultimately meant that despite the fact it was an outstanding, original album (in a musical landscape of copycats and indie scenesters) many were reluctant to indulge in it because it was so detached from the musical world.