The coveted “Best Albums of 09” debate began far too early this year. In January, every flanneled obsessive moaned victoriously after gracing their ears with vinyl copies of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. The release of Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest is the biggest, most anticipated contender in this battle of yearly rankings. The mainstream world has American Idol, the indiesphere has two comparatively obscure bands, hyped beyond the point of King Kong vs. Godzilla. To put it simply, our ears have been waiting like a pair of JoBros-loving teenyboppers for Grizzly Bear’s follow-up to 2006’s wildly acclaimed Yellow House. And it has arrived, oh has it arrived.
Happy days are upon us – and not just because of the overwhelming excitement. While Yellow House was the creepy dream sequence filled with twiddling banjos and ghostly harmonies, Veckatimest is the moment of waking up, discovering the sun exists and that Pluto is not really a planet. “Two Weeks,” for example, is the band’s most sublime tune to date, opening up with staccato piano chords (oddly reminiscent of Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life”) and bursting into Chris Bear’s deceptively complex drum fills. Ed Droste then releases an anachronistic 1950’s croon between fireworks of reverberating shimmers and harmonies. Grizzly Bear is back. Cue the headlines: “Barking up the Right Tree with Third Release,” “Hungry for Success on Latest Record,” “Grizzly Bear Attacks Fans With New Album; Victims Rejoice.”
Veckatimest is a natural progression in the band’s career. Instead of delivering a stagnant regurgitation of sepia-toned sounds, the band shakes off the wistful sadness of Yellow House, and emerges with a chunky euphoria, shadowing its predecessor in expanse and awe. “Southern Point” and “I Live With You,” the latter in particular, prove that Grizzly Bear is the one of the few acts who can evoke beauty and absolute terror in the same track. “I Live With You” begins with a delicate loop of flute, following a choir and swells of saxophone and cello (via Nico Muhly) and climaxes in pounding rhythm and screeching strings. The result is heavier and more frightening Judas Priest hurling fireballs off atop a floating metal fortress.
Amidst Veckatimest’s grandiosity are the classic, delicate ballads of Grizzly Bear. The closing track, “Foreground,” for instance, shuns the guitar pomp of the previous songs, opting for a simple piano line and the quivering vocals of Droste. You can hear his mouth form consonants of each word — and it’s spine-tingling. Some of the slower tracks, however, such as “Fine for Now” or “Hold Still,” drag on in a reverberated melancholy, but only until the blissful “While You Wait for the Others.” This track is what an epiphany would sound like in musical notation. More specifically, in the chorus, when Grizzy Bear showcases that it is not only an animal, but also, a four-part harmony machine.
It will take a few more months for this release to settle in the anxious tummies of the indie public. Until then, let’s put the fight into perspective: Grizzly Bear is the peaceful, yet frighteningly giant King Kong. Animal Collective is the outrageously radioactive, unrelentingly hip Godzilla. Both share equal powers and influence. But then again, did anyone really want that freaky dinosaur to win?