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Album review: Grizzly Bear's 'Veckatimest'

May 26, 2009 |  7:06 pm

Grizzly In 2006, the Brooklyn quartet Grizzly Bear released “Yellow House,” a debut so drenched in atmosphere that listening to its songs was like ambling through the halls of a deserted lakeside Victorian. If “Yellow House” had a flaw, it was in song construction. Some were almost coma-inducing in their pacing and too intensely focused on harmonized vocals to the exclusion of everything else.

With their full-length follow-up, Grizzly Bear’s songwriters, singer Ed Droste and singer-guitarist Daniel Rossen, have strengthened their craft — and surely it helped to have cross-genre pollinator Nico Muhly contribute choral and string quartet arrangements on a few tunes. “Veckatimest” is a gorgeously refined statement that isn’t content to merely be pretty — a rippling current electrifies even its most gossamer of moments.

Grizzly Bear manages to be delicate and charged at the same time by stitching together compelling styles, including doo-wop, sea chanteys, the stringy interplay of jam bands, jazz time changes and the Anglican choral tradition. On “Fine for Now,” Rossen’s vocals have a touch of lounge to them but are strained and hushed. Christopher Bear’s drums predatorily tick around the vocals before capsizing the whole production in a tidal wave of cymbal crashes.

A feast for repeated listening, “Veckatimest”  yields the kind of eccentricities a fan can spend months winding and unwinding. In other words, it affords plenty of amusement until the next album comes out.

--Margaret Wappler

Grizzly Bear
(Warp Records)
Three and a half stars