By Peter Soucy
Never afraid of layering tracks or complex instrumentation, Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear has once again crafted a masterpiece with “Painted Ruins,” the long awaited follow up to their 2012 album, “Shields.”
Grizzly Bear knows how to fill out a pair of headphones to create a vortex of crisp guitars, multi-track synths, woodwinds and complex non-standard drum rhythms around the listener. There are so many nuances and riffs in every song on the album that with every listen, the listener’s appreciation for the music will grow. This album definitely warrants multiple listens to truly understand the quality of its craftsmanship. A good pair of headphones is highly recommended.
Past followers of Grizzly Bear will love the return of the crisp, ethereal guitar on the album and new listeners will have their ears treated to the effortlessness that is Daniel Rossen’s guitar. Songs like “Aquarian” and “Neighbors” really showcase the unique guitar style. Among all the controlled chaos of the songs on the album, the clean guitar really pierces through to keep the listener from getting lost in all the layers of sound.
In contrast to the bright, crisp guitar are mellow woodwinds. Grizzly Bear has never been afraid to put their woodwinds on the table and this album is no different. The track “Neighbors” has a prevalent woodwind choir in the intro to the song. In “Cut-Out,” the band uses the woodwinds along with vocals, synths and guitar to create an incredible and full build up in the song. The woodwinds fill in all the gaps the electronic instruments simply cannot fill.
Also helping to fill in any possible cracks in the wall of sound are Grizzly Bear’s effortless harmonies. The band is able to blend their voices in such a way that at times a listener might not be able to pick out the vocals from the synths or woodwinds. These backup vocals accompany lyrics such as “could I ask of you not to cut into me / dividing all of my body for me” (“Losing All Sense”). These moody lyrics can be on the verge of disturbing, but beautiful and brilliant nonetheless. The backing harmonies can add to the haunting lyrics and/or keep the songs more lighthearted.
One of the singles off the album “Three Rings” is a perfect of example of all of Grizzly Bear’s musical genius coming together. It layers mind-melting harmonies over a fat bass line with synths and woodwinds filling out everything else. The song also features the complex non-typical drum patterns the band often uses. “Three Rings” has two competing drum tracks that build off each other to create a beat as complex as the melodic parts of the song. Bright guitar riffs along with a little of everything else finish the song with a beautiful blast of sheer musical power.
Every song on this album could have been released as a single because they are all incredibly packed with intricate sound and rhythms. The only issue a listener might have with the album is that every song is pretty massive in terms of the power behind it. There are no minimalistic songs, but that’s the way Grizzly Bear makes their music. This album has a high playback value, as every listen reveals a new nugget of music never heard before. Anyone who likes unique, experimental music should give it a few listens and then a few more. It is available to buy and stream everywhere.