Revitalizing the Past With the Possibility of An Ambitious Future
Grizzly Bear are officially on a streak after their debut, Horn of Plenty, which made people stand up and take notice and their beautiful masterpiece of a follow up, Yellow House. With this in mind, one could easily be a bit skeptical upon a scanning the track list of their latest EP, Friend. At first glance it appears to be smattering of previously released tracks and covers from indie darlings and up-and-comers. Only slight exploration is needed to disprove this inference. The final Verdict? The streak continues.Rather than repetition, revitalization is the idea at the core of Friend and in grandiose fashion as well. “Alligator” from their debut in 2004 was a quick, haunting interlude featuring an almost monotone Ed Droste vocal over a chiming keyboard and flashes of soft hiss. Here, the song is almost four times its original length, features Beirut and Dirty Projectors in collaboration and is completely transformed by the symphonic mix of loud and quiet as heard throughout Yellow House. Also given a volume injection is “Little Brother,” the acoustic, pastoral beauty from their sophomore masterpiece. Here, it’s completely electrified into a heavier, Spoon-inspired romp. Other highlights include a gorgeous, maybe better new version of “Shift” and a jaw-dropping cover of The Crystals’ “He Hit Me.”
The covers by other bands are the only negative points present on Friend. CSS turn Yellow House‘s spectral centerpiece “Knife” into a dull piece of electro-pop and Band of Horses sound like a sideshow in Branson, MO on their take of “Plans.” Then there’s Atlas Sound’s otherworldly take on “Knife” that, much like his impressive debut album, will yield more replay value than the other two.
Friend closes with a hidden, raucous instrumental collaboration with Beirut consisting of a rumbling guitar and a thunderous climax of percussion, brass, strings and choir vocals. Evocative of Ennio Morricone, this bonus adds further testament to Grizzly Bear’s vision and creativity. If the ideas expressed here and throughout the EP are any indicator of where Ed Droste and company are headed, this band has a great career in front of it.