Expansive, Ambitious, Intimate, Gorgeous.
There’s a moment of pure magic that opens Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House. It’s a subtle crackle that’s similar to that of an old 78 rpm record, followed by eleven ethereal seconds of brass and woodwinds that segue to a piano sounding of another, simpler time. The magic comes in an indescribably beautiful flash-forward as more woodwinds, brass, strings, Edward Droste’s gentle vocals and a chiming acoustic guitar eclipse said piano. The band’s follow-up to 2005’s sparse and minimalist Horn of Plenty is a dazzling achievement full of surprises of this caliber. The aforementioned moment comes from “Easier,” which continues on its heavenly trajectory to conclude with a spiraling glockenspiel. Like a musical butterfly effect, “Lullabye” begins softly with strums of an acoustic guitar, low strings, and flutes. After reaching a crescendo in a thunderstorm of heavy drums and clashing cymbals, it closes on a moment of pure serenity. Thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s no rest for listeners as the album segues into its centerpiece, â€šÃ„ÃºKnifeâ€šÃ„Ã¹ with a strumming guitar at its center, angelic strings and distorted vocal harmonies surrounding it and creating an otherworldly beauty. This opening trio of songs exemplifies a band creating intimate, awe-inspiring music with enough self-assurance to give the little details center stage. The songs are enchantingly catchy as well. The previous three as well as the pastoral “Little Brother,” the waltz-tempo “Plans” and the symphonic acid trip, “Colorado,” will echo throughout listeners’ memory weeks after hearing the album.
Yellow House is a grand leap forward for Grizzly Bear. Following the quiet and spare Horn of Plenty, they’ve gone widescreen with their expanded production palette and inviting soundscapes. Through little detailed sounds and an almost narrative construction, Grizzly Bear has delivered an album with music big enough for a top-of-the-line stereo system, yet perfect for headphones as well.