Grizzly Bear returns with some lovely sounds impressed by dangerous occasions

Photograph: Tom Hines

Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear’s fifth file and first in 5 years, sounds fully relaxed with itself. The primary few tracks teem with pastoral magnificence; examine the swooning, 70mm composition of “Three Rings” or the early-morning birdsong guitars of “4 Cypresses.” This has been a pure progress: The just about geological scale of 2006’s Yellow Home gave manner on 2009’s Veckatimest to lush, natural pastures, much less centered on cathartic climaxes than ecosystems of element, and it’s a growth that continues right here right into a gleaming sonic opulence. Halfway by means of, “Dropping All Sense” clicks into one of many band’s wrangly, interlocking grooves, however augments it with monumental starbursts of guitar. On “Aquarian,” on the spidering “Glass Hillside,” on nearer “Sky Took Maintain,” the group repeatedly pulls out these reverb-drenched analog explosions of sound, providing a welcome reminder that few bands in up to date music are as centered on the noble, but oft-devalued activity of sounding good as Grizzly Bear.

There’s one thing quaint about this, virtually ’70s in its mindset. Grizzly Bear makes albums as real listening experiences, the kind of information you’d pull out to check a brand new set of audio system on the hi-fi retailer, nodding learnedly about their “brightness” and “vary.” There’s additionally lengthy been a kind of basic rock, studio-nerd stateliness to its compositions, recalling the meticulousness (if not the conduct) of bands like Fleetwood Mac or Steely Dan. When Grizzly Bear performs dwell, they’re arrayed in a straight line throughout the stage, and it’s kind of gobsmacking how proficient every particular person member is, all contributing incandescent counter-melodies and proving that they’ll create such a stunning sound with simply, you recognize, guitars and shit, all in actual time. On file, that may be simple to take without any consideration. It’s like an artisanal piece of furnishings; you are feeling like try to be doing one thing nobler than consuming brunch on it. Grizzly Bear makes albums that demand you do extra than simply throw it on within the background (even when it does make for good brunch music).

Listened to entrance to again, theirs is a discography of regular, quiet evolution, a filling-in of cavernous areas. 2004’s Horn Of Lots was an virtually ambient launch, elemental in its goals, which was then formed and shaped into dramatic preparations on Yellow Home. In Christopher Bear’s drums and Chris Taylor’s counterintuitive bass strains, Veckatimest discovered an enormous, percussive revolution. And whereas Shields couldn’t assist however really feel a tad anticlimactic after that breakthrough, it nonetheless confirmed the band more and more assured in its instrumentation. Painted Ruins picks up the very best threads of all of them, the rhythm part clicking with an virtually post-punk intelligence and newer, thicker splashes of synthesizers imbuing the proceedings with a sci-fi sense of surprise. And but the sum of all of that is an album no much less ambient in its pleasures than the demo-like gloaming of Horn Of Lots, creating an immaculate wall of sound constructed on trilling orchestras and luxurious glockenspiels and firecracker explosions of guitar. The ghostly high quality of these early information stays; the ghosts are simply louder now.

The theme of selfhood is echoed within the lyrics, too, which—for all their discuss of the pure world, transience, and obscure political referencing—primarily sort out the give and take of a relationship, with emphasis on the “take.” Painted Ruins seems to be an acceptable identify: Regardless of its overwhelming pleasantness, that is one thing of a breakup album, starting because it shatters and ending as soon as the items hit the bottom. (Singer Ed Droste has acknowledged that his current divorce is an emotional, if not specific, affect.)

The morning scenes evoked all through the album’s first half are tethered to a relationship’s quiet dissolution: “Mourning Sound” conjures up ideas of growing older love, burning out and dying, whereas the keening, unresolved ardor of “Three Rings” pivots on the road “the morning all the time exhibits all,” suggesting a clean blue gentle much less forgiving than the earlier night’s. Later, the poisonous romance will get solid as an “invading spore rising within me,” which, after the near-abusive dying throes of “Neighbors” and the Taylor-led “Systole,” lastly will get expelled into the sky, leaving a still-standing survivor, worse for the wear and tear, tattered however alive. These are disagreeable moments, however they’re written right here with a way of neutrality, as if the complete cycle had been as natural because the flip of the seasons.

In all, Painted Ruins represents the band’s strongest compositions since Yellow Home—and nonetheless, there’s one thing weirdly revolutionary about this sort of formalism in 2017. Towards the tip of final yr, indie rock went through one of its periodic existential crises, launching a wave of articles asking if indie rock was dead, and contrarily scolding the people who deigned to ask as much. (Droste’s own droll Instagrammed response: “😱.”) In the past few months, almost as if in defiance of those claims, we’ve seen a host of canonical mid-aughts bands release records reckoning with their past—Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, The Shins, Spoon, Wolf Parade, Feist, and so on—many of them following a hiatus much like the one Grizzly Bear has just returned from. And yet few of their contemporaries sound as comfortable in their own skin, or as quietly essential, as Grizzly Bear, even after the time away. Turns out sounding good is evergreen.

Purchase Painted Ruins here, which helps support The A.V. Club.

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