Plumbiferous Media

Veckatimest – Grizzly Bear

May 31st 2009
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Veckatimest - Grizzly BearGrizzly Bear
Score: 29

Grizzly Bear is a four-man indie band on a largely electronic label, and as such they’re rather unique. They’ve been described in a myriad of ways, mostly as folk, rock, and an experimental fusion of both. The band dedicates itself to using a variety of sound both in vocals and in instrumentation, which is evident in its music. However, without proper organization, this leads to clutter rather than beauty. Their newest album, Veckatimest, suffers greatly from this – though it has some strong points.

On first glance, the vocals of Veckatimest seem to float oddly above the clutter of the music, spacious but not quite ethereal. It’s this sublime position, then, that makes their flaws quite so obvious. Though the vocals do not lack technical proficiency, aesthetically they have a number of issues. Grizzly Bear has obviously tried for an almost-breathy, all-inclusive set of vocals, and to some degree they’ve succeeded in that. But the incessant layering of backup vocals tends to confuse the purity which is the best aspect of the vocals, and instead of the beauty of clear vocals we’re left with a convoluted, somewhat irritating muddle. Additions such as the backing choir on “Southern Point” fail to advance this jumble, and instead it’s quite static, sitting like a second disorganized clump upon the one constructed haphazardly by the music.

The muddle of the vocals certainly isn’t improved by the lyrics, which effortlessly fade into the confusion. Grizzly Bear has written exceptionally simple, non-notable lyrics which, when combined with the vocals, become essentially trivial and contribute very little to the album except to give the vocalists something to sing.

Each individual instrument on Veckatimest plays its line clearly and well, and each is decently interesting. Problems, however, occur when the lines are mixed together. Not only do the lines only serve to convolute each other, as they certainly don’t pair well together, but the often highly repetitive lines never even begin to show any sort of direction. While a complex mess can sometimes be dealt with quite well, doing so is significantly harder if it does not develop over time. Needless to say, the mess of instrumentals combined with the muddled vocals do not make a very interesting album.

The worst example of this mess is on the first track. On “Southern Point,” not only do the lines not work well with one another, but the track contains multiple clearly distinct sections that could easily be their own tracks. Veckatimest does have its occasional moments though. Even though the lines of “Cheerleader” are possibly the most repetitive lines of the album, they do form a significantly more comprehensible and well constructed track, if only because of “Cheerleader’s” simplicity.

The members of Grizzly Bear are all clearly talented, and the music each member produces does not account for this album’s problems. Instead, the album weakened once the members started to combine their individual sounds, as the only thing the members seemed to have agreed upon consistently was the tempo. Veckatimest is not a strong album, and it is clearly not Grizzly Bear’s best possible work.

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