Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear


Grizzly Bear
Warp Records.

SCQ Rating: 72%

To refute the greatness of Veckatimest at this late stage of the game - two months after its release - is tantamount to attention-seeking. I’m not immune to hype, nor am I a contrarian to public opinion in and of itself. Like you, dear reader, I was pummeled into heart-pounding anticipation well before the album came out, having swallowed every exclamation from the indie press and reserved some hard-earned dough for Grizzly Bear’s follow-up to 2006’s Yellow House. And lord knows I’ve tried: I even toured around Massachusetts - the state where Veckatimest Island is situated - with this album, trying to find some atmosphere in these twelve tunes of that inhospitable rock. Simply put, I am an individual who can admit when an album has failed to grip me in any way and, despite the multiple levels in which I appreciate this Brooklyn four-piece, Veckatimest is a good album catapulted by publicity.

Did he just say good?!? A painful non-descriptor, I know, but perfectly suitable for many of these songs; ‘Cheerleader’ which bounds softly on bass-lines and ‘Hold Still’ are both incapable of breaching their own loveliness with any contrast, any trigger. The lyrics of ‘Hold Still’ nearly sum up this aggravation, quoting “There isn’t anything left to try / Here we go again we’ll carry but then again / We couldn’t take this on / The story goes unformed / As if we never were there at all”. Now the last thing I’d wish is for each track to erupt in the way ‘I Live With You’ or ‘Southern Point’ does, yet much of Veckatimest seems to float by on mid-tempo excursions that end where they began, their circular progressions peppered with light prog flourishes. An unformed story, indeed. Blame for this sleepiness may rest on the band’s foremost asset, vocalist Ed Droste, whose timbre is pitch-perfect throughout but almost begs for compositions as soft and spongy as these. He may lack the guts for the heavier material but Droste’s vocals engage some of Veckatimest’s best songs; ‘Two Weeks’ wouldn’t be as magnificent in his absence and the man basically carries the twilight sparkle of ‘Foreground’. Besides, the band isn't exactly short on vocalists. One could say Grizzly Bear are moving towards easy-rock for the indie crowd with this release and it’s arguable. At the very least it’s more believable than rivaling Veckatimest against Merriweather Post Pavillion for album of the year. Please.

Yellow House was a cavernous, spectral record, with songs that ducked shadows (‘Easier’, ‘Knife’) as often as it projected enormity (the blistering climax of ‘On a Neck, On a Spit’, the endless soundscape of ‘Colorado’) and, while there is no shortage of excellent instrumentation on this new release, I feel no atmosphere at all. For all its hype, Veckatimest is a better advocate for showcasing a creative and multitalented band than being a tremendous album.

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