Grizzly Bear

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Horn of Plenty (2004) , 5/10
Yellow House (2006) , 7/10
Veckatimest (2009) , 6/10
Department Of Eagles: Whitey on the Moon (2003), 5/10
Department Of Eagles: In Ear Park (2008), 6/10
Shields (2012), 5.5/10

Grizzly Bear is the project of New York's songwriter Edward Droste. He debuted with the gentle bedroom-folk tunes of Horn of Plenty (2004), notably Fix It.

He matured with Yellow House (Warp, 2006), recorded by a real band (drummer Christopher Bear, keyboardist and bassist Chris Taylor, and new guitarist Daniel Rossen) and much better arranged. The first few seconds of Easier evoke a vintage atmosphere before it ventures into a tipsy country-rock rhythm, still dominated by paradisiac vocal harmonies and orchestral flourishes. Celestial vocals also permeate the waltzing and tinkling Lullabye before it escalates to an oddly booming pop languor. The dense arrangement of Central And Remote, at times reminiscent of Moody Blues and King Crimson, catapults its simple folkish chant into a realm of psychedelic and metaphysical ecstasy. Little Brother begins like a simple guitar country ditty a` la Leo Kottke, but then mutates in all sorts of different things until a coda of bird calls and monk choir that has nothing to do with the beginning. Plans, a lazy march with whistling instead of backing vocals, turns into a horn fanfare reminiscent of both thriller soundtracks and jazz bands The harmless carefree litany of On A Neck On A Spit boasts both the noisiest intermezzo and the most enthralling acceleration of the batch. These were complex compositions, which enjoy multiple detours with no clear destination, and which were easily ascribed to the psychedelic-folk revival (correctly so for the indolent Beatles-ian ballad Knife), but in reality were more properly a kind of post-modernist take on atmospheric folk-pop. At the same time he was capable eaks of achieving peaks of pathos even with the most skeletal of structures, like the nocturnal piano dirge Marla and the hypnotic hymn-like Colorado. This album turns atmospheric folk-rock into a case of information overload.

Department Of Eagles was the pre-existing project of Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen and Fred Nicolaus. They debuted with the electronic experiment of Whitey on the Moon, better known as The Cold Nose (2003). They used the studio to craft a broad range of imitations, from the Brazilian-tinged ballad Sailing By Night to the punkish synth-pop a` la Ultravox of Romo-Goth, with peaks of genius in the cubistic funk-jazz On Glaze and especially the surreal collage-lullaby Noam Chomsky Spring Break 2002. They then opted for a nostalgic fusion of orchestral pop and freak-folk on In Ear Park (2008), luckily still displaying the wacky mood of the debut. The drunk bedroom-folk meditation of In Ear Park, with acoustic fingerpicking, banjo and cello, is the exception to the rule. No One Does It Like You borrows from Phil Spector's wall of sound, Tamla soul and doo-wop. Herringbone is a moronic Paul McCartney-ian litany. Floating On The Lehigh sounds like a parody of exotic and romantic Broadway musicals. And so forth. Around The Bay is typical of their method that can be magniloquent and idiosyncratic at the same time; soulful and still demented. The arrangements represent most of the fun. For example, Teenagers begins with harp and piano and incorporates a brass fanfare. Archive 2003-2006 (American Dust, 2010) collects rarities.

Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest (Warp, 2009) boasted a sleek and crisper production but the complexity was actually reduced. The delirious rhythmic shuffle Southern Point, the limping choral hymn Fine For Now, and the alternating shy and booming I Live With You, stick to one disorienting trick, preferring focus over creativity; and the radio-friendly While You Wait For The Others (the only moment of relative fervor), Two Weeks (their biggest hit yet) and Cheerleader are rather plain, predictable and old-fashioned by his standards. On this album Droste opted a bit too often for the subdued ballad (All We Ask, Dory, About Face), offering too little in terms of vocal and instrumental detours to raise it above the threshold of mediocre bedroom confession. A breathing choir bestows meaning to the closing piano dirge, Foreground, but only in the last few seconds. It's a good metaphor to summarize the entire album.

Chris Taylor's project Cant debuted with the glacial progressive electronica of Dreams Come True (2011).

Daniel Rossen compiled some of the songs meant for Grizzly Bear's last album on the EP Silent Hour/ Golden Mile (2012), and it sounds like a general turn towards a much more conventional style, from the Nashville-ian Up on High and the poppy Silent Song.

Grizzly Bear continued its descent into commercial music with the shockingly smooth Shields (Warp, 2012) and songs ranging from the moderately catchy, twangy Yet Again to the swaggering arena-rock meltdown of Sleeping Ute. The sprightly, bouncy A Simple Answer and Speak in Rounds are exceptions. The norm is now the adult pop of Gun-Shy and Sun In Your Eyes.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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