Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear released their fine Yellow House LP this past Tuesday, and are currently finishing up a European promotional jaunt behind it (which doubles as a warm-up for their full US tour supporting TV On The Radio this fall). Although it's going to become harder and harder for the dudes to stop everything and simply revel in their accomplishments, we've gone ahead and put up the Grizzly Bear Gen F from FADER 40 after the jump, so you can go and appreciate them on your own.
Grizzly Bear finds harmony in the extremes
By Alex Waxman
You can tell Ed Droste is practiced at reciting the story of his band, Grizzly Bear. It is, after all, an interesting story—beginning with a series of hushed, intimate bedroom songs written in the aftermath of a breakup (he insists the songs were never meant to be heard by the outside world), to the passing of the album from hand-to-hand, followed by the addition of new multi-talented band members, to the remix of Horn of Plenty by the likes of Ariel Pink, Dntel, Circlesquare, and Final Fantasy, culminating most recently in the recording of their forthcoming album Yellow House in Droste’s boyhood home. Which brings us up to the present, which you might call the end of the beginning.
These days, two years can seem like a long time for a band’s “beginning” but that’s how long Grizzly Bear’s gradual break has taken, and the incubation has benefited them mightily. Each successive recording has shown the band delving deeper. What was hinted at on Horn of Plenty with Droste’s strumming acoustic guitar, his sensitive vocals, the layered harmonies and ambient sounds, has been fully realized on Yellow House—even though, as Droste puts it, the new album is “still essentially a home recording, but a lot nicer.” Part of the reason for the breakthrough is that Grizzly Bear now has four accomplished musicians contributing ideas. Guitarist and singer Daniel Rossen, the last member to join the group, wrote half the songs on the new album. The band makes use of an impressive array of instruments—clarinet, piano, banjo, autoharp, xylophone, flute, recorder, electronics—to create a sound that is by turns haunting, lonely, joyful and rollicking.
Where Droste’s songs are constructed like vessels of sound, Rossen’s are more traditional verse-chorus affairs, and the two styles commingle beautifully. Everything about Yellow House is clearer, almost startlingly lucid. “Knife,” is a brooding light/dark number with shambling percussion that could have been a Motown hit, if not for all the ghostly sounds floating in the ether. “On a Neck, On a Spit” begins with gentle guitar and explodes into a big, lush country western arrangement.
In live performances, all four band members sing long-stretching, four-part harmonies that swell and subside; just when a song begins to repeat or float off, a new voice comes soaring up to the surface. Grizzly Bear is most impressive in these transitions: the band modulates from loud to soft, sad to exuberant, often several times in the course of a single song. These shifts are as much emotional as musical. Grizzly Bear's music reminds us that loneliness and loveliness, suffering and bliss, are not as far apart as they might seem.