Monday, 18 August 2008

Grizzly Bear - Yellow House

Grizzly Bear - Plans

Huge thanks to James Dalrymple who has a blog, Demob Happy, covering music, film and fiction and who recommended Grizzly Bear to me after reading my reviews of Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver. I can see why he mentioned them to me in conjunction with those two outfits, it's in the alt-country/folk mould but with some electronic influence as you might expect from an album released by the label Warp. What I've been really impressed by is the complexity, as I listen to the album again and again I hear something new each time. There are West Coast harmonies and folky strummings but a wide range of instrumentation that includes flutes, clarinets and many other classical instruments too. The singing is not as clearly beautiful as that on Fleet Foxes début but with all four members of the band contributing differing styles it is in some ways more interesting.

A track like Lullabye which begins with acoustic guitars and a melody The Beatles would have been happy with is soon subverted by discordant guitar, chanted vocals and a musical crescendo which makes you realise how misleading the title is. The lyrics too unsettle, what do they mean when they sing 'My love's another kind'. Central and Remote is another track that contains surprising power as they sing about how 'Pressing matters bear', the darkness lifted by soaring vocal harmonies. Little Brother sounds like standard folk until stomps and handclaps lift it and lush vocals take it into the realms of film-score beauty. Plans is a good example of the electronic influences which help take the simple whistled melody into a landscape populated by beeps, whistles and a big brass section; the song fracturing at the end under the weight of its many parts. The track I keep being haunted by is Marla which with its old piano and string accompaniment creates a beautiful and yet very creepy feel, like walking into an empty house to find a piano playing itself and quiet voices echoing down the hall.

The album was in fact recorded in Ed Droste's mother's house (the eponymous Yellow House) so perhaps that has something to do with my thoughts. There's certainly a lot going on musically, which means that with headphones on your mind can go on some very interesting journeys. It can meander at times or dissolve into the kind of vague psych-noodling that carries a waft of patchouli in the air but all in all it makes for an atmospheric album which really delivers when listened to from beginning to end. Thanks again to James for making me aware. That's what blogging's all about, isn't it?


jamesewan,  2 September 2008 at 20:37  

A pleasure William! Any new albums on your radar at the moment? I'm quite tempted by Calexico's new one, and TV on the Radio are getting all the hype at the moment ...

William Rycroft 3 September 2008 at 09:48  

I'm massively uninspired music wise at the moment James so thanks for mentioning TV On The Radio. Dave Sitek's production was the only redeeming feature for me of Scarlett Johansson's recent musical foray. I was gong to mention the Dodos but I checked your site and you're already aware. I expected nothing less!

jamesewan,  4 September 2008 at 20:55  

Well the summer is generally a dry spell but things will pick up soon I reckon. Department of Eagles in October is the other one i'm looking forward to but other than that nothing in particular. The James Jackson Toth that I reviewed for The Line of Best Fit, also posted on my blog, has some good stuff on it. I'll keep you posted!

William Rycroft 5 September 2008 at 10:33  

Thanks James. I've just noticed that Kings of Leon have a new album soon and that David Holmes, of Steven Soderbergh film score fame, has a new solo album. His 'Let's Get Killed' from over 10 years ago is still fantastic I think.

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