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Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest Charles Ubaghs , May 28th, 2009 13:58

Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear have received more than their fair share of bonhomie since the release of their second album, Yellow House, in 2006. The record may not have been instantly declared the new 'in sound' by digital culture vultures looking to sink their claws into fresh meat, but over the following two years, the four men in the band slowly became the recipients of a critical and public kudos enjoyed by very few other artists in these broadband-saturated times. Even Radiohead's normally stoic Johnny Greenwood piped in and declared Grizzly Bear his favourite band.

It's a rare feat, and they pulled it off without having to turn into backwoods hermits or beardo-hippies from outer space, a la the now-depreciated Devandra Banhart, in order to lure in potential listeners. Instead, the foursome simply presented themselves as genial, dapper gents with a slightly experimental yet accessible mindset, happy to play their occasionally winsome mix of chamber-pop, folk and surf guitar tones for anyone willing to listen.

Eventually, they retreated to Cape Cod to record the follow-up to Yellow House. But before they did, they offered a parting gift to their fans in the form of 2007's Friend EP — a surprisingly complete oddities, B-sides and covers collection — only to periodically return and stoke the public fires by debuting tracks off their work in progress on national US television and granting a surprising amount of interviews for a band busy at work on what is acknowledged by many an eager blog reader to be one of the year's key releases.

Those who've watched Grizzly Bear's progress closely will have the impression that the quartet's supporters adhere to a form of manifest destiny: Veckatimest, the fruit of the band's recent labour, will succeed. Thankfully, those rooting for it can relax — Veckatimest lives up to these heavy expectations without the crutch of collective will.

Don't assume, though, that the band have opted to turn out a hit parade of singles to satisfy casual listeners. Veckatimest is the creation of a group that, having begun as a solo outlet for singer Ed Droste's compositions on 2004's Horn Of Plenty, has steadily evolved into a glorious democracy. Guitarist Daniel Rossen's own songs balance Droste's, bassist Chris Taylor producing the album, and all four voices have their equal say; it shows across all 12 tracks.

With all hands on deck, Veckatimest finds Grizzly Bear stepping out of Yellow House's confined spaces to explore a wider landscape. This may lack the immediacy of its predecessor, but offers ample reward for those willing to give it the necessary time.

Opener 'Southern Point' commences at an uncharacteristically upbeat pace but is quickly tempered by the piano-led bounce of single 'Two Weeks', which gently segues into the hair-raising 'All We Ask'. Yet it's 'Cheerleader's, gentle twisting of Spector-esque harmonies into a stripped down pop opus — a trick likely learned on their celebrated cover of The Crystals' 'He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)' — that offers the clearest view of what lies at the centre of Veckatimest's beating heart. Vintage pop and folk may be the defining points for many listeners, but it's their re-configuration into songs like 'Cheerleader' — which avoids the broad brush and instead focuses on the careful shifting of numerous elements — that matters. The beauty here is to be found in the moment. Every meticulously planned-out second plays its part in establishing a cohesive, emotional whole.

Veckatimest is a fragile beast, though. If Grizzly Bear had wavered in any way, the album's tightly wound elegance would have collapsed into an indulgent mess. Luckily for them, they didn't. Here's to four men who, for once, were able to repay public good will with considerable grace.

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