With a stamp of approval from Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood, it’s no surprise Grizzly Bears’ new album has been generating some serious interest amongst musos. Three years after the release of ‘Yellow House’, the group return with their third LP, ‘Veckatimest’. The album starts promisingly with ‘Southern Point’, a psychedelic folk piece that would have made Arthur Lee proud. Plucked guitar parts are dynamic and ever-evolving, yielding a real 60’s feel that’s accentuated by apt melodies, harmonies and call and response vocals. The ambience and progressive mood established is a theme that re-occurs right through the album.
‘Two Weeks’ follows and it’s an epic, piano driven, 80’s tinged, pop affair. The chorus and harmonies soar as if the group had channelled Tears for Fears - before it was even halfway through I wanted to hear it again. Ok, the piano does sound a bit similar to Foreigners ‘Cold as Ice’, but hey, that’s a great song too, and if it isn’t a single I will eat my own head.
So strong is ‘Two Weeks’ that, on first listen it suddenly felt as if the middle of the album was a slight let down. Delivered, on the whole, at a considerably slower pace, songs such as ‘All We Ask’, ‘Fine For Now’ and a handful of others certainly don’t grab you like the two openers. The intricacies and heart of the pieces can’t be dismissed, but part of me was longing to skip back to the more upbeat tracks.
Thankfully, the band have more instantly rewarding gems up their sleeves, the beautiful, melodic and eerie ‘Ready, Able’ hits the right spot and the phenomenal ‘While You Wait for the Others’, with its effortless shifting of mood and superb harmonies, is almost on a par with ‘Two Weeks’. Closer, ‘Foreground’, is also a highlight and finds the group once again, through production and structure, subtly alluring to the 80’s - this time tackling the ballad. Understated, effecting and pompous in a good way, it’s a fitting end to the album.
I say thankfully with regards to these tracks, because without them this album could have easily slipped out of my CD player and into oblivion. Fortunately, the obvious quality of these songs inspires repeated listens to the album and allows the more delicate tracks such as ‘Dory’ and ‘Hold Still’ to reveal their depths and subtle qualities.
There is an endless stream of artists I could mention here as reference points, from Arcade Fire, to the Beach Boys, and Jeff Buckley, to David Bowie, but it’s unnecessary as there is no reoccurring suggestion of one individual artist or group. Grizzly Bears’ approach to structures and harmonies ensure their own sound is asserted throughout - they simply deliver their ideas and wear their influences on their sleeves.
Veckatimest is an ambitious, soulful, reverb-drenched, dream-like homage to 60’s psychedelia that continues to reveal layer, after layer. Don’t be surprised, however, if you still find yourself wishing there were just a couple more upbeat tracks on there.