The Universe Expands
Grizzly Bear have come a long way since their seemingly submerged debut Horn of Plenty—an odd statement since Veckatimest is only their third album. The leap from Horn to 2006’s audaciously sublime Yellow House seems too far even now. However, the band have grabbed with both hands the challenge of following up one of this decade’s best albums. If it doesn’t somehow further expand on its predecessor, Veckatimest deepens the sonic repertoire of one of the more interesting bands to emerge from Brooklyn this millennium.
Grizzly Bear find great ways to begin an album. Where Yellow House began sounding like an old 78 on a dusty turntable, Veckatimest drops us into the jazzy bass rumble opening “Southern Point,” the song eventually exploding into a psychedelic mix of percussion, fervent acoustic guitars and hand claps. “Two Weeks” is the beautiful yang to this noisier yin. With a tiptoeing piano acting as gravitational center, the drums, synth effects and subtle guitars seem to want to fly away yet are always pulled back without losing control.
Stylistically, this album sounds more consistent than its predecessor. There’s less of the quiet-loud dynamic that was in abundance on Yellow House; the band lean towards pop sensibility this time out. The creepy teen insecurities of “Cheerleader,” the ornate, wintery sweep of “Ready, Able” and the warm, homey feel of “About Face” all have an idiosyncratic way of etching themselves into one’s head.
The easy route here would be to say that Grizzly Bear haven’t bettered Yellow House. Then again, not much could. If their 2006 album was a big bang, Veckatimest finds the four band members exploring the world it created. If it is the boundless, gorgeous, never-a-dull-moment sort of place that this album clearly reveals it as, listeners will be very well rewarded with future releases.