Tag Archives: Grizzly Bear

Tissue and bone it was a tryst.

Sorry Brooklyn Vegan, again. Some day I will buy a good camera.

If you’ve read a couple of these reviews, you’ve probably noticed that I go to almost exclusively free gigs. Well, no. Completely exclusively free gigs. It takes a freak accident or a ridiculously generous friend who can’t get out of work for that trend to be bucked. Owing to the latter, against $40 odds (that’s about 10 days of staying alive), I found myself on the ferry again to Governor’s Island.

There’ve been some incredible shows. Caribou on Governor’s will be one of those hazy, reverie-type memories for as long as my memory lasts. Sonic Youth was like a Greek statue, a perfect museum-piece of what a Sonic Youth gig in Brooklyn was going to be like in my head. HEALTH was loud. But this one was the best.

I got to the island slightly late, because it turns out time is linear rather than cyclical, as I had previously thought. As I queued at the “Will Call” stand, Gang Gang Dance put down what sounded like a pretty intense set for a first support. I made my way past the drinks wristband guy, confident in the knowledge that the $1.30 in my pocket wasn’t going to buy me anything worth having, and crossed the fake beach one more time to take up residence in front of Hamilton Leithauser and the Walkmen.

Bows + Arrows is the only Walkmen album I ever paid any attention to, and even though I liked it a lot at the time, it’s been scrolled past consistently for nearly five years now. Still, open mind. They’re a strange band to watch.

Since Bows + Arrows, they’ve slowed down and calmed down a little, but there’s still the feeling that Leithauser is an overstuffed straw doll, bursting at the seams and malfunctioning sadly a little even when the melodies are happy. You can take Hamilton Leithauser’s hands out of his tailored trouser pockets, but you can’t take the hands-in-pockets out of Hamilton Leithauser. They play okay, with a little bit too much of what seems like self-regard on the slower ones, and they criminally skip P4K’s 20th best track of the 2000s.

None of that, nearly 400 words in, is relevant to why this was the best gig of the summer and one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. That was what came next, after a rain shower, some crew panic, a feud between poncho-wearers and “Williamsburg pansy pricks” with umbrellas and a delay of at least a half an hour. Grizzly Bear.

It’s been long established that Grizzly Bear are an awe-inspiringly tight and excellent live band, but this was something else. They came out and opened with an almost unrecognisable version of Showcase from Horn of Plenty that sounded like what Radiohead probably wish In Rainbows sounded like live, spotless, skewed and gigantic. Then it was into Southern Point and no more surprises till the encore.

Scale changes the experience at shows, and even though it was wet, the twin key factors of volume and lights, not to mention the downtown Manhattan skyline, made it two gears beyond anything I’ve seen them do before. Knife and Two Weeks are the obvious hits, but they seemed like the least impressive things tonight, possibly because they’re made of nothing that has physical effect when pumped out of bus-sized speakers – Two Weeks has no guitar at all and a drum part too intricate to really break up, and Knife is strangely subdued. Crowd singalongs, though, might have made up for the slight dip in energy.

Grizzly Bear’s variation on the Loud-Quiet-Loud formula (Quiet-Quiet-Loud-Quiet-Loud-Loud maybe?) is exponentially more pronounced on stage when they’re actually playing off each other. It’s Chris Bear on drums and Daniel Rossen on guitar who take this to its extreme. The troughs (or oases of calm, would possibly be a better way of putting it) are cowing. Foreground is as fragile these things come. But the peaks are almost destructive. The set’s packed with songs that show this off: Lullabye, the Friend version of Little Brother, I Live With You and While You Wait For The Others all feature impeccably loud, rhythmically untrustworthy wig-out sections.

Without going further down the internal thesaurus route, it’s hard to describe exactly how good this was. I tried taking some notes on my phone, but they’re just garbled nonsense. It’s rare that an entire set, start to finish, is completely captivating, even when it’s a band whose entire catalogue you know well. It was just a perfect combination of set, untouchable talent, location and the fact that I hadn’t even expected to be there until the day.

The set closed with While You Wait For The Others into the second half of On A Neck On A Spit, and even though it was 12.5 songs long, it seemed almost like a cheat, like when a band shows up and plays a 25 minute set. The encore was, again, an unrecognisable Horn of Plenty song, Fix It. After that, it was just three minutes of staring at an empty stage and fighting both sides of an internal Socratic dialogue on whether it was the best live show I’d ever seen.

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Showcase (Horn Of Plenty)
Southern Point (Veckatimest)
Cheerleader (Veckatimest)
Lullabye (Yellow House)
Little Brother (Friend)
Knife (Veckatimest)
Fine For Now (Veckatimest)
Two Weeks (Veckatimest)
Ready, Able (Veckatimest)
I Live With You (Veckatimest)
Foreground (Veckatimest)
While You Wait For The Others (Veckatimest)
On A Neck, On A Spit (Second Half) (Yellow House)
Encore: Fix It (Horn Of Plenty)

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The Year. 8-6


8. Patrick Kelleher – You Look Cold [IRL]

In July I called You Look Cold “as frozen and synaesthetic as anything you’re likely to hear this year”, as if frigidity and synaesthesia were primary criteria in anyone’s taste checklist. Not that I want to retract or anything. It crunches underfoot as you listen to it, definitely, and it recalls maybe the smell of mouldy wallpaper or overheated chips from toyshop Casios. The delivery changes from song to song. Until I Get Paid is some exceptionally bizarre ghost doo-wop, where Wintertime’s Doll is a creaky, spacious dirge and Blue Eyes is threateningly sinister accelerando analogue electronica. But what binds them is the juxtaposition of metronome beats from evidently cheap instruments with lush, considered layers, icy futurism, dusty pastism and an ability to deliver a song without a blink. Genre-wise, you could throw prefixes (kraut-, freak-, prog-) or suffixes (-folk, -tronica) at this all you want and never end up within fifty miles of accuracy. This is a step forward.

A swathe of stuff from here including pictures, a bootleg and an interview, and an interview from Totally Dublin done in the nice park behind Whelans.


7. The Antlers – Hospice [US]

With every physical copy of Hospice comes a small booklet, eight pages long. On the front is a stylised caduceus, symbol for medicine, in black on a plain white background. It’s perfect, far better than the cartoon hands on the actual album cover, because it’s so economical. There is mostly just white space, like the music. But in the centre is a symbol, a lead to something more. And it’s the caduceus which, long story short, is a symbol that has only come to represent medicine because of a continuous, historically cemented misuse. Which is really almost too perfect to be true for Hospice. Because it’s an album about a hospice, right? About a dying loved one, maybe a relative or a lover? It perfectly evokes the hopelessness and helplessness of those dying days, if you’ve ever experienced them, it goes through the gamut of guilt, anger, desperation, etc. That’s what the lyrics in the book are about, that’s what the spare, resonant music recalls. But scratch closer. Hospice isn’t about death. It’s about love, or the death of love. As a song-cycle, it’s a work of fiction up there with a well-wrought novel. At a casual listen, it’s just deeply moving music.

Totally Dublin interview I was late for with Mr. Peter Silbermann, or their MySpace where old EPs are free.


6. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest [US]

Grizzly Bear is a band with talent, in the traditional, conventional sense. They can all sing pin-point harmonies, they have a knack for arrangement swinging from lush to austere, and above all, they know how to hit a high-point. If a lesser band were equipped with the tools Grizzly Bear have, Veckatimest would be nothing more than loud-quiet-loud with clarinets. But that’s not what it is. It’s sensitive, incredibly careful, constructed with considerable thought and artifice. With creaky attics drums and a reverberating guitar, they build a new, dusty house on the shore, like Yellow House before it. But they shine light in differently this time. At once using a wider lens and more detail, Veckatimest’s caution is what makes the peaks when they come. The human foil to 2009’s insinuated strangeness, Grizzly Bear are not mad experimenters, but carriers of song. So, when the truly transcendent moments do come – and they do, signalled for example by the oscillating organs at 1.45 in Ready, Able – a very specific picture locks in mind. Four men on the Atlantic coast trying to row a wooden row-boat to the cosmos.

An old post partly about how good Grizzly Bear are, and them being too pure for words on Pitchfork.

Wide-eyed and up in arms.

I’m so late doing this Grizzly Bear review that I thought I might change up my pitching a little bit and get post-modern. Here’s a review of the gig entirely made out of copied and pasted lines from things I’ve written on the blog in the past two years.

St. Vincent

She’s the obvious candidate: she’s attractive, she wears cool stuff, she doesn’t sound like a culchie eejit and she is, lest we forget, a girl.

about four minutes of will-he-won’t-he guitar loops

It’s all very careful, very measured. But warm. Charming.

The voice is of course undeniable

His set was good enough, for what it was.

Grizzly Bear

It took a couple of listens to properly unlock Veckatimest, but when I did, it got me to thinking. Some of this stuff is patent genius. Obviously the first single ‘Two Weeks‘ is one example, but as with Yellow House before it, some of the greatest moments are the ones hiding a little below the surface, popping out when you shine a light into a dusty corner in a room where the door’s been locked and the curtains have been closed for years until now.

musically and lyrically complex while staying accessible at all times, and it is a beautifully noble-sounding listen.

The question is not whether or not the germ of inspiration is going to be there, the question is how it’s going to translate to music.

The humble, hymnal harmonies of white spirituals. [….] Hushed tones. Undefined sadness.

Things that were on: Everything

Experimental in the least alienating and masturbatory sense, populist, mindful of craft, and blending together a full platter of familiar ingredients to create an entirely new dish.

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In non-stolen terms, this was an unfathomably tight and beautiful concert – and yes, Grizzly Bear are sufficiently talented to merit the use of the word “concert” – from a band who’ve never misstepped in their career so far. Knife and Two Weeks were curiously subdued, but the likes of Colorado (from Yellow House), Ready, Able (from Veckatimest) and my personal favourite Grizzly Bear song Little Brother (from the Friend EP) made this great.

And a Dublin crowd that’s not murmuring amongst itself when a song is quiet? Unheard of.

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