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 development: The virtually 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 way of, “Shedding 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 process 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 form 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 form of traditional rock, studio-nerd stateliness to its compositions, recalling the meticulousness (if not the habits) of bands like Fleetwood Mac or Steely Dan. When Grizzly Bear performs reside, they’re arrayed in a straight line throughout the stage, and it’s form of gobsmacking how proficient every particular person member is, all contributing incandescent counter-melodies and proving that they will create such a stunning sound with simply, , guitars and shit, all in actual time. On file, that may be straightforward to take as a right. It’s like an artisanal piece of furnishings; you’re feeling like you ought 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 A lot was an virtually ambient launch, elemental in its goals, which was then formed and fashioned into dramatic preparations on Yellow Home. In Christopher Bear’s drums and Chris Taylor’s counterintuitive bass traces, 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 A lot, 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 deal with the give and take of a relationship, with emphasis on the “take.” Painted Ruins seems to be an acceptable title: 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 latest 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” evokes ideas of getting old love, burning out and dying, whereas the keening, unresolved ardor of “Three Rings” pivots on the road “the morning at all times exhibits all,” suggesting a clean blue mild 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 demise throes of “Neighbors” and the Taylor-led “Systole,” lastly will get expelled into the sky, leaving a still-standing survivor, worse for the damage, tattered however alive. These are disagreeable moments, however they’re written right here with a way of neutrality, as if your 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 top of final 12 months, indie rock went by way of one in every of its periodic existential crises, launching a wave of articles asking if indie rock was lifeless, and contrarily scolding the individuals who deigned to ask as a lot. (Droste’s personal droll Instagrammed response: “😱.”) Previously few months, virtually as if in defiance of these claims, we’ve seen a bunch of canonical mid-aughts bands launch information reckoning with their previous—Damaged Social Scene, Arcade Fireplace, The Shins, Spoon, Wolf Parade, Feist, and so forth—lots of them following a hiatus very like the one Grizzly Bear has simply returned from. And but few of their contemporaries sound as comfy in their very own pores and skin, or as quietly important, as Grizzly Bear, even after the time away. Seems sounding good is evergreen.
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