Loaded with flourishing arrangements dripping with a bountiful of opulently layered music, Grizzly Bear is a master at delivering, to be succinct, gorgeous music. The group’s arc is an interesting one to follow: there was the bedroom tranquility of Horn of Plenty, which was followed by the ghostly restlessness of Yellow House and then the Brooklyn quartet’s sound changed. With their Friend EP, they employed a deeper, full-fledged ensemble and now, everything comes full circle with Veckatimest, an album that sounds so downright flawless, it feels like a dream.
Taking it apart and dissecting it almost feels wrong because of how much it feels like a complete whole. The sum of its parts is what makes this such a joyous listening experience and with the artwork, corresponding booklet and that poster (if you’re one of the lucky few) make up the rightful aesthetic method. “All We Ask” is all Ed Droste and his acoustic leanings, before the waves of drums, strings and the band’s responsive singing come crashing in. Unlike the quiet recordings on Yellow House that tended to stay the course, the songs on Veckatimest are always reaching for something grander and fuller, in both sonic scope and musical composition.
My vinyl copy was delivered at a speedy rate and as I opened it up—considering its beauty with a discerning eye—the colors pop and you are left with four sides of wholesome magnificence. The final side, a trifecta that spans the album’s closing songs, is what will firmly and justly place this album as one of the finest recordings in the past ten years. “While You Wait for the Others” is basically, Daniel Rossen’s poignant singing with that hollowed-out, full-bodied, beast of a guitar he employs. His superb skill on the instrument is one to behold and the ensuing coda is very simply, one of the year’s best musical moments. “I Live With You” then follows with Rossen featured on lead vocals again; everything seems fine until the drums and cymbals, literally, crash and slam away without a care in the world. And finally, with “Foreground,” Nico Muhly provides his best composition on Droste’s closing lullaby. With each enunciation, the music shakes and shivers underneath him, as the plaintive piano and choir close the album.
It was, arguably, the most highly anticipated and surely, the most hyped, album of the year. Leaking a near three months before its official release, illegal file-sharers have had the horrific quality mp3s on their iPods for a long time now. And it seems fitting and in many ways, honorable, that for those that still listen to music in the traditional format, that we be rewarded for out patience with such a heavenly experience. Veckatimest is everything we hoped for and more; nothing else has sounded as perfect as this does, right now.
If it sounds like I’m reaching, it’s because I am. And not because the music Grizzly Bear has made is troubling but rather, it’s so immediately heartrending and stirring that one is left speechless. The Finding Nemo nod of “Dory” is Rossen channeling his inner romantic, accompanied by a reflective guitar and Droste’s singular backing vocals, he sings about how “we’ll swim around like two Dories, let loose in the bay, la la la.” And the spook and charm doesn’t stop short with the special tone that “Fine For Now” endorses, complete with a variance of instruments and superb arrangements. Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear’s contributions are, as expected, integral parts to the band’s music and they stand out with striking clarity on the aforementioned song.
If you came looking for twelve perfect pop songs in the form of “Two Weeks,” then you came looking in the wrong direction. But everything that Veckatimest has to offer is wrapped up in musical enchantment: gripping compositions, precisely calculated shifts and alterations and the supreme musicianship of a band hitting on all cylinders. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this album and on the contrary, Grizzly Bear has clearly made the year’s best album.
“Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear
“Cheerleader” by Grizzly Bear