on 13 March 2010
I first got hold of this album when it came out last year. I played it two or three times and to be honest - it completely failed to grab me. I knew there was a tremendous amount of hype around it but whatever that was about went straight over my head. After reading a few of the reviews I decided to give it another go a few weeks back, as I was intrigued as to what i was missing in this
I have to say straightaway that whilst I still find a few faults with Veckatimest, it has grown on me considerably. When this is good it really does approach brilliance. And for me the best of the album is from the middle onwards. Looking at this now I think it's the first two tracks that put me off. 'Southern Point' I like better now although like one or two other tracks I still think that the odd moment drifts to the bad side of 70s rock music. Maybe it's just me but I hear a faint echo of Steely Dan on at least one track, and I'd hate to think Grizzly Bear will drift down a mid 70s corporate rock/Eagles type gig... . I'm still unconvinced by 'Two Weeks'. I don't know but the piano-driven rock behind this track brings to mind a close resemblance to a Keane song. Perhaps that's what threw me? Still these criticisms are minor really. What I do like is the way the album builds after this. I'm loving the backing vocals and at times their placement is utterly sublime. The closing two tracks though are the standout of the album. 'I Live with You' is a dreamy classic and highlights the best of this record, when it's at its most ethereal and otherworldy is oddly when it packs its biggest punch. 'Foreground' is a fabulous way to bow out of the album and really leaves me wanting more. A very beautiful ending. (8.5/10)
on 4 June 2012
Grizzly Bear are set to release their fourth studio album later this year and even in this era where new music is constantly in circulation (quite often before it's actual release date) i'd be suprised if it's not being eagerly awaited by even the most highly saturated of music listeners. The reason i assert this is almost entirely based on the glowing reviews this album received upon it's 2009 release, attracting a mass of new fans and turning the band into one of indie rocks hottest properties. So three years on, having personally been re-introduced to Grizzly Bear by listening to Daniel Roseens excellent Silent Hour/Golden mile EP a couple of months ago, i thought i'd give my thoughts on this beaut of an album.
"Southern Point" opens the record with an intriguiging flutter, it rises with a cascade of instrumentation that's played with equals parts intensity and poise. "Two Weeks" the albums most successful single follows and even with it's endless appearance on TV and Radio it's not lost an iota of magic. I'm not one for hyperbole but i think it's one of greatest pop songs of the century! the simplicity of the staccato piano chords, the syncopated drumming and the stunning singing of Ed Droste with the sumptuous vocal harmonies (featuring Victoria Legrand of Beach House) makes the song feel utterly transcendent.
Nico Muhly the clasical protege makes a welcome addition here too, providing some delightful choral arrangements to "Cheerleader" and "Foreground" two of the songs that captured peoples attention when the album unfotunately leaked prior to it's release date. "Cheerleader" is a seductive wonder and is one of the most accesible tracks here too, even if it still features the wide open spaces the rest of the songs have on this album. "Foreground" is awe inspiringly gorgeous, showing an obvious Radiohead influence with it's sombre melody, which isn't suprising considering they opened for them around the making of this album in 2008.
"Fine For Now", "While You Wait For The Others" and "I Live With You" show the band at their most visceral. Each have powerfully cathartic moments, whether it's the post rock hurricane of guitars in "Fine For Now" or the completely unexpected synthesizer explosions in "I Live with you" or how about the sheer stomping force of the vocal harmonies of "WYWFTO". They provide the album with real bite and counter balance the more elegantly subtle yet somewhat meandering songs like "Hold Still" and "Ready, Able" the latter sounding almost disturbingly carnivalesque.
I wouldn't expect listeners to fall in love with this album on first listen it's layered, nuanced, arrangements don't immediately jump out at you but once they ingratiate themselves into your mind they're unlikely to ever leave their again. Atleast it's been that way for me anyway I love this record and i can't wait to hear what they come up with for the next album thats hopefully just around the corner from being released. If it's able to continue the brilliance of what began on "Yellow House" and matured on "Veckatimest" it's easily going to be frontrunner for best of the year.
on 2 June 2009
Veckatimest is an uninhabited island close to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Veckatimest the album, however, is deceptively full of life. This is one of a series of paradoxes at the heart of this record. It feels awkward, each note having been carefully chosen, or composed, as some have suggested, but it comes across entirely comfortable with its nods to folk and experimentalism. It feels adventurous, but in an entirely safe way, like taking a trip after many hours happy reflection deep within the folds of a forgiving sofa, but only to the lush confines of some walled garden.
There will be and have been inevitable comparisons made with Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. Both records are experimental and have had loose genres such as folk, pop and generic indie, even combinations thereof, thrown at them with the hope one might stick. The Animal Collective album however was full of giddy abandon; Veckatimest is truly hammock-worthy in its more relaxed approach.
The close harmonies of West Coast classics live on in this record, as they did in Fleet Foxes' successful release last year. Yet, there is much more at play here. The infectious bounce of `Two Weeks' is loveable in a way Fleet Foxes were not, which is to say, if they were `White Winter Hymnal', then this is summertime swoon.
The vocal is ever warm and dreamy to the point of Deerhunter. `Cheerleader' strongly recalls the considered plod of Bradford Cox's `Saved By Old Times'. The bubbling harmony, acoustic strumming, plucks and mid-tempos that start `Dory' bring Department of Eagles to mind. The orchestral quality of `Hold Still', with its choir-like vocal hints at the scope of the album's potential. `While You Wait For The Others' confirms it with its epiphanic and soaring vocal. Whilst it is not all about the vocal, here, it firmly is. Album closer, `Foreground', proves this and ushers the listen to a close with twinkles in ivory-tickled tristesse - a touching and fitting close to an album, which if not immediate, nor, curiously, especially memorable, does affect the listener in its sentiment and aesthetic.
Whether an injection of urgency would have cooked the mix too quickly or woken it from its comfortable reverie we will never know. Nevertheless, what is certain is that one Veckatimest is sure to be full of admirers from here on in.
I was I admit tempted to seek out one of the early copies of this album which were circulating pre-release. I am glad I didn't not least of all since Veckatimest is beautifully produced and packaged even on a download from I Tunes. Some of it has been well trailed around the music blogs and the band has put in some great appearances on Letterman and Jools Holland. The lead singer of the Fleet Foxes has described it as the album of the decade and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood has described Grizzly Bear as his favourite band. So finally we can judge whether its deserves the anticipation and hype or will it just collapse under the weight of all this expectation?
Based on the huge promise of the wonderful Yellow House particularly with superb songs like "The Knife" "Central and remote" "Colorado" and the brilliant "On a neck and a spit" it is clear that Grizzly Bear have originality & inventiveness in spades particularly in their dream like capacity to mix a vast range of influences but somehow make them sound totally unique and cool. Check out their cover version of Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" to hear a song fundamentally deconstructed and rebuilt so differently that it could sit on the "Twin Peaks" soundtrack! Indeed "too clever by half" has been one charge levelled at them. This has led the recent reviewer of Veckatimest in The Times to question whether "there is a word for an album that you know is excellent, but that you really don't want to listen to"? Challenging" doesn't quite do it, because Veckatimest features some lovely tunes -- but, my God, is it hard work"
Some first thoughts, I have listened to album around four times and hard work its not, indeed it would do this album a massive disservice if it was seen as inaccessible or difficult. True there are some very dense and textured songs on here like "Dory" which is more a lush choral piece sung in a tea room as opposed to a pop song. Similarly "Hold still" is a complex soundscape underpinned by what sounds like a harp, it is also very beautiful. I suspect all these songs will richly reward with repeated listens. More straightforward (in a Grizzly Bear sense) are the brilliant "Two Weeks" possibly one of the songs of the year with Droste's superb vocals. Then there is the almost funky "Cheerleader" backed by the Brooklyn Youth choir with some parts sounding like 10cc (nothing wrong in that). Other delights are the acoustically driven "About Face" which actually reminds me of some of the pastoral themes explored on Midlake's "Trials of the Van Occupanther" and the gorgeous "Foreground" which could easily sit on Mercury Rev's masterpiece "Deserters Songs". Finally "I live with you" has so much going on it's like a mini "White album".
Roxy Music once sang about "modern songs for modern days" and here at last we have a band that is moving in fascinating and totally different territory. In recent weeks I have listened carefully to the current British indie favourites The Horrors and their very strong album "Primary Colours". But sadly if that is the best of the current crop of UK indie then we should worry. With both Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective we have two bands dramatically raising the bar, not only drawing on influences as diverse as the Beach Boys and the Band but pointing a way forward. As for the charge that it is easier to admire than love; well I for one am smitten.
Veckatimest is much deeper and less optimistic than the sheer hedonistic rush of "Merriweather Post Pavilion". This is strength not a criticism. As the album unfolds incrementally it is full of real surprises and unique diversions. As such I would venture to suggest that both these albums will define music in 2009 and well beyond.
on 5 February 2010
Featuring outstanding production and varied instrumentation, this is a lush pop record. The record is meticulously crafted with each track being a very deliberate and complete package. Grizzly Bear don't know the meaning of the words 'after thought'.
This could be a problem for some, with such immense attention to detail in their craft there is very little room for spontaneity. Songs are structured to leave little room for sudden twists or surprises. This is not because it is a dull record but merely because the songs present here all have a very particular atmosphere and the band have put utmost care into ensuring thats not disrupted.
Some very strong pop-songs ensure that even after the first few spins you'll swear you've known some of these tracks all your life. In a good way. 'Two Weeks' & 'Cheerleader' are such immediately endearing songs they will hook many listeners straight away. The songs that lack immediacy still have an air of comforting familiarity. The depth of the collection as a whole ensures you'll still be discovering the intricacies of this album for months after you first hear it.
Highly recommended for fans of: Fleet Foxes, Department Of Eagles (featuring members of Grizzly Bear) and The Middle East
on 25 January 2011
Shocked to see any negative reviews of Veckatimest. I still listen to it all the time- from first song to the last song it is truly fantastic.
It's only flaw is that it's too perfect.
I doubt Grizzly Bear's sonorous brand of chamber pop will be pumping out on Radio 1 any time soon, and it's probably a bit too unusual for Radio 2. But this belies the fact that anyone with eardrums can enjoy the beautiful Veckatimest (named for a little island off Cape Cod), which is original yet accessible, lush yet melodious, and undoubtedly one of the best records I've heard this year.
"Two Weeks" and "While You Wait for the Others" are standout tracks on a standout album, immaculate recordings that stand testament to the work ethic of a band clearly determined to bring already brilliant songs as close as possible to perfection. The Brooklyn quartet sounds every bit as close-knit and harmonious as Fleet Foxes but have, for my money, by steering clear of the folk clichés and retro OohOohings of the Seattle band in favour of darker lyrics and a harder-edged sound, produced a set of songs that, while still festival-friendly, soars even higher and stirs more deeply.
Once in a while an album comes along which puts much of what
one has come to know and love about popular music to the test.
Grizzly Bear's new album 'Veckatimest' is one such creature.
PM's birthday gift to an old Wolf is both a surprise and a revelation.
I have a passing familiarity with their 2006 release 'Yellow House',
a not unpleasant confection but a darker and far more desultory
affair than this fine collection of 12 sparkling new songs.
Comparisons will be found in these pages aplenty so I will try to show
restraint and not add to a potential mire of conflict and confusion.
It seems to me that Grizzly Bear have found a distinctive musical
language quite their own. Richly layered and strangely affecting.
Martial percussion; complex vocal harmonies; elusive melodies and time signatures.
The overall effect is of something curiously unsettled and timeless.
Opening track 'Southern Point' is a scintillating affair suffused with light and shade.
The complex dynamic shifts of both tempo and structural density bare witness to
their creators' refined musical intelligence. A thrilling roller-coaster of a song !
The album proceeds with no perceptible diminution of inspiration or execution.
'Two Weeks' is another marvellous composition. The soaring central vocal performance
and limber supporting harmonies are both gloriously otherworldly.
'Cheerleader' is a whimsical and beautifully constructed piece.
The lovechild of a chance meeting between Phil Spector and The Beach Boys.
Infused with sunlight and warm feeling.
The judicious use of the choir (here as elsewhere) is a real joy.
The song lyrics throughout the project are beguiling and impressionistic.
The subjects clearly personal and difficult to pin down.
This uncertainty is no bad thing and contributes significantly to the
album's atmosphere of magic and mystery.
The strangely fragile opening of penultimate track 'I Live With You'
feels a little like walking into someone else's dream.
Evolving quickly into a widescreen epic it manages to both batter and salve
our senses simultaneously. A small masterpiece of compositional prowess.
Closing song 'Foreground' is a thing of beauty. Held together by the plodding
ostinato of a slightly detuned upright piano, the fragile melody brings this
very special album to a moving and uplifting conclusion.
The choral arrangement in the final bars delivers as fine an ending as one could wish for.
Single minded; uncompromising; inspirational. A complete blast in fact !
on 19 December 2012
Listened a couple of times then saw them live in Warwick. Beautiful and much to enjoy even without knowing the music that well. Very accomplished. Recommended.
2009 has created a curse. 2009 has stumbled. The moment one sorry soul muttered the words "album of the year??" on the 1st day of January after hearing Animal Collective's latest album, then arose a standard, a competition for all others to aspire to. Every `big release' album has been to some extent viewed in regard to how it compares to `Merriweather Post Pavilion', but no album quite as much as `Veckatimest'. Perhaps this should come as no surprise: `Yellow House' was a beautifully layered, sleep-tight, warm album, a very special one indeed. But `Veckatimest', an album so separate from many musical spheres that it shouldn't be compared so directly, has already seen itself judged instantly on merit of how likely you think it is to get the album of the year crown.
Let's make things clear: album of the year judgements are something that most music fans look on towards from an early stage but for some reason, they're slowly edging into a collective opinion, a sense that there should be a definitive best record, be it for historical purposes or self satisfaction at your own music taste. That shouldn't be the case. In a flash, it puts most listeners of `Veckatimest' on two sides of the fence. If you didn't think it was the best thing you'd heard all year, you'd begin to almost despise it when that compliment was thrown from side to side towards the Brooklyn four-piece's latest creation.
In reality, `Veckatimest', like any other album created by human beings, has its strong points and its weak points. Vocal melodies, the ultimate strong point of Rossen and co., are enhanced to a stage in which they begin to guide each song, acting instrumentally instead of lyrically on `Fine For Now', varying in rhythm, mood, pitch - creating something beautiful. Contrasting to that is this new-found edge, a passionate combination of crashing cymbals and blown-up guitars, climaxing `I Live With You' and initially drawing you in on opener `Southern Point', a sporadic, joyous affair enhanced by a stunning orchestral closing.
At times however, the melodies and such border on becoming inaccessible. `Hold Still' almost seems to interrupt a gathering pace built on the moving, upbeat `Ready, Able' and the percussion-dominated charmer `About Face'. Obtuse guitar work seems too immersed in its own enjoyment, shunning out the listener. But maybe Grizzly Bear deserve this kind of indulgence in a prequel to the album highlight, `While You Wait For The Others'. In regards to the bulk of the record, it remains a simplistic band affair that fashions a summery vibe, culminating in the kind of chorus all songwriters aspire to - a cry of joy if ever there was one. `Two Weeks' perhaps a similar function. Being the most up-tempo song on the record, it immediately gains attention. Ed Droste's soothing vocals stand out at the start when there's nothing to hear but his voice and the gorgeous, cheery keyboard-line, but it gradually becomes a small part of the song, shadowed in behind beautifully layered guitar parts and Christopher Bear's ubiquitous drum style. `Southern Point' hones in more are carefully-crafted guitar work, its centrepiece being the sudden change of structure that's met by the cast of a dozen violnis. `Ready, Able''s explosion of a stirring bout of passion is matching in character.
The slightly less-pacey core of the record shouldn't be seen as a weak spot. Msot should be able to marvel at the breathtaking vocal performance of Rossen in `Dory', the rich and colourful summit of "Cheerleader', etc. etc. Indeed at times you might feel like you're trudging through the think swampy bulk of the record but take time out of what you're doing and you'll find a whole host of characteristics and little turns in structure, pace, ideas as a whole.
Taking the whole competitive context out of the album puts it in a much better light. Perhaps once the dust settles, `Veckatimest' can appear just as, if not more affecting and spirited than `Yellow House'. For now however, music has to wait six months or so before it can fully judge the record in comparison to others. `Veckatimest' should only be judged as to whether it compares with `Yellow House', whether it's the most forward-thinking move of their career to date - and it probably is.