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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