Grizzly Bear strikes me as the type of band that writes and writes and creates a large schlepping of material, then starts to think about recording techniques and what’s possible with the material they have ALREADY written or come up with. Raw Raw Raw (to borrow the bear imagery). And perhaps that’s the only touch of irony with Grizzly Bear – the fierceness of the name contrasted with the beauty of the music. You could describe some moments of “Southern Point” or “About Face” as ferocious, but again, only in contrast to the subtle wistfulness of the other melodies populating the track.
Like the Arcade Fire before them, Grizzly Bear exist without ironic detachment (sonically speaking – the tone of their videos, especially “Two Weeks”, suggests a sense of humor with the material). This is not to say, however, that they are humorless like, say, 3 Doors Down, or any other band that takes a stance of Importance with a capital “I” yet sound like two-dimentional imitations of what their rock n’ roll forebears successfully accomplished. And in that way, even their goals are outdated.
What plagues the poor Grizzlies, however, is all of that frightening buzz and ballyhooed importance (lower-case) put upon them by bloggers, critics, and even so-called music fans. With every media outlet (music or otherwise) rolling out their year-end Best-Of Lists, it’s hard to find a list that doesn’t include this year’s Veckatimest. What does seem to be hard, however, is finding new ways to describe the music. “Patient”, “Careful”, “Choirboy”; these words populate many reviews and re-reviews. Unfortunately the plethora of mentions and the content of these mentions tend to do the band more harm than good.
My suggestion to you? Just listen to it. Experience the music and form your own opinion. Open your mind and partake in beautiful modern musicality. Don’t ever catch yourself saying “music today sucks.” You’re just not listening to the right music (i.e., turn off Top 40 radio).
Hell, take it from Michael McDonald, the former Doobie Brother and Yacht Rock King himself, who this year recorded vocals for a new version of Grizzly Bear’s “While You Wait For The Others.” The song itself is the closest they come to pop perfection on the album, even surpassing “Two Weeks” in it’s taught structure.
“When I was with the Doobies, the style of music was that we all went over the falls with chord progressions, trying to make things as complex and interconnected as possible,” he says. “The punk movement swung towards being as primitive as possible, but now it’s back to where these guys are good musicians. I never thought that would come back around, but it has.”
Oh thank God it has.