Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grizzly Bear is Amazing: An Album Review

I'll get it out of the way before I begin: I'm so very much a fan of Grizzly Bear. It is a bias like this that threatens to make this post a crappy echo of better opinions thrown around the internet. Especially in the wake of a new album. As much as I can remove myself from that, I will still be fascinated by these musicians, but I have been chewing on the album for a while now, and I think it is time to take a crack at it.

From what I can tell, and as far as Veckatimest is concerned, these songs are not exciting.


they are intricate, sincere, and expertly constructed. Save the prancing keys of two weeks, this album is really quite docile. It begins so covertly with Southern Point, which chugs along to the gang supporting Rossen's mysterious and raspy wanderings. Rossen is supplement to the more expansive songs on the album, where Droste leads the melancholy pop songs that has everyone trying to sing along, even if they can't match his choirboy aptitude. Speaking of choirboys, the album comes complete with its own section of clandestine chimers, which acts as testiment to how much time Grizzly Bear is willing to take for their songs.

Structurally this album feels much like Yellow House, in which the lower half of the album drags. And just like their debut, Veckatimest has no loss of intricacy in any part. Surprisingly catchy About Face will most likely go unnoticed by most, and it will definitely take a while for the needle to wear down Ready, Able. This is all besides the fact that they have succeeded to make a brilliantly sculpted pop album, which will get more playthroughs than Yellow House ever managed. So yes, you don't have to excersice your skip button between Cheerleader and While You Wait For The Others, there's something to listen to.

I've heard reference of 'chamber pop' when people mention obvious winners like Cheerleader, but I don't know why. Is it because these songs sound like they were recorded in the drawing room of a Neo-Classical manor? Or is it because the instruments used, being so old and so clunky yet able to produce such rich sound, could only be contained in an adequate chamber of sorts? The only need I see for placing the label of 'chamber pop' on this album is to distinguish it from from the music of our grandparents, who would love this album just as much, if we ever let them get their hands on it.

Of course, there are other songs that will most likely be forgotten, like the detuned Hold Still, which seems to be a small reminder that even in the midst of such an agreeable arrangement of sound, Grizzly Bear will not be done with their experimental side. What I don't understand is why we can't see that they have obviously done that experimentation inside the cabin of what might be considered as, above all else, pop music. Maybe that is what they mean about chamber pop.

Whenever I consider the overall standing of the album, it seems to sit in the head space between Yellow House and the meaty diversion that was Department of Eagles. For Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear has explored the region in every way we could be satisfied with. And they have built up a reputation of producing expertly well written songs. Music that shows evidence of skill. With Veckatimest, these musical laureates exhibit that they can make good music. Really good music.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Grizzly Bear is Amazing: A Concert Review.

I didn't know it was possible. My appreciation for Grizzly Bear has doubled since I saw them last Friday (June 5th) at the Phoenix in Toronto. Here is why.
The Opening band Here We Go Magic from Brooklyn New York were damn good themselves. Normally openers for an $18 concert aren't the best. Typically some semi-okay local band good enough to pass some time. But Here We Go Magic played a really solid set, with great energy. Their songs ranged from up beat and poppy to more mellow and experimental. It was a really pleasant surprise given my past with sucky Toronto openers (a few being The Beauties at Broken Social Scene, not bad but totally not suited for the concert. Grouper at Animal Collective made people sleep, and one I still can't forget: Viva Voce from Portland Oregon because they announced who they were after EVERY SONG from The Shins 2007 concert ). Another good news item: set change didn't take too long. They were pretty dang efficient.
Grizzly Bear themselves were awesome. They played a solid set of Veckatimest and Yellow House songs mixed with a few older and rarer songs. It was such an enjoyable concert; such a relaxed atmosphere, no insecent pushing or violent crowd. It was the most beautiful concert I've ever been to, the music was such a high caliber and so dreamy. Some of my personal highlights would include: Colorado, Knife, and While you Wait for the Others. Another big highlight was a guest performace by Leslie Feist. Feist came to perfom Service Bell (off of Dark was the Night) with Grizzly Bear and also Two Weeks off of Veckatimest. I think everyone in the crowd was happy about that, but I'm sure at least half had entertained the possibility (come on, it's Toronto, anything can and will happen). I left the concert in a great mood. Really happy about the whole thing and kind of wished I knew them better when they played 2 summers ago at LOLA fest (maybe a repeat performace this summer?! Hopefully but probably not). It was simply a fantastic show.

If you haven't heard Veckatimest their latest release (came out a few weeks ago) you really ought to at LEAST check it out on their myspace and if you haven't even heard Grizzly Bear (where have you been?), same thing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Style vs Skill

I'm at an impasse. I am and have been learning SO much both in and out of school about so many things. Through all this learning I've been learning about my own opinions and styles. Here's my problem: as much as I am learning what I like and dislike I can't really put it into professional use yet. For the skills I am able to market right now I'm not fully able to have complete control. In fact, there is very little control. I suppose it's enough to keep me happy, but I'm wondering: if I keep doing the same kind of projects that cause this to happen can I break out of it? Once you get comfortable with something it's easy to stay in that comfort zone. I suppose by pursuing more projects for myself this won't be so much of an issue. Another question: if I keep doing projects like this will I ever be able to find other means of work? Will I pigeonhole myself into doing what I don't want to do?

It's become a question of skill versus style. Right now I am a student, looking for whatever I can get, trying to gain experience, and build credibility. I'm a little concerned that I am I creating a box I won't be able to break out of. When will my style outweigh my skill? Will it ever happen? Web design is a huge market right now, and I know how to do it pretty well. Even if it's not my favourite thing a relevant job is a job. Don't get me wrong- it's not that I don't enjoy it, I'm just worried about the direction it could take me. Worried that it's the wrong direction. I guess I'll just have to keep on doing what I am doing and see where I get.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Conclusions About Poetry

It's hard to be poetic.
I find it difficult because poets are cheesy and I don't want to be cheesy. I exercise a strict policy to eschew my own poetic tendencies, but still, sometimes I just gotta do it. Mostly I harbor this as a terrible addiction, something I can't kick so why should I? At least I keep it to myself, for the most part.There are certain individuals who are able to transcend the self-conscious monster that tamely licks at your ego. People who are poetic while at the same time, are able to avoid the criticism of trying too hard. Kim Hiroth√ły, a long time Graphic Designer, DJ, and owner of Rune Grammofon, a successful record label in the heart of Norway. Although his monogram is no longer in print, He has recently released pretty much the next best thing.

Money Will Ruin Everything 2 is a celebration of 5 years of Rune Grammofon. It comes with 2 CDs and pages upon pages of album art work, all of which is designed by Kim.When I look at Kim's work, all I am immediately aware of is the feeling of poetry. To me, he doesn't need to be doing anything on top of that, even if he is. It's something about an non-rhythm that gets me, and how nothing-shapes become instantly meaningful. His photographs contain a kindness that is dragged out by his shapes and I can't figure out how so little could become so much. Its not a silly 'less is more' fixation, Kim is able to make the endless beauty and hidden importance of the unfamiliar, instantly noticeable.