Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Grizzly Bear, "Veckatimest" [2 STARS]

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Though the third album by the Brooklyn freak-folk quartet Grizzly Bear has been garnering ecstatic raves throughout the indie-rock underground, rarely has a recording that tries so hard to create a unique bucolic idyll--the name was inspired by a small uninhabited island in rural Massachusetts--sounded so deliberately contrived, convoluted and downright un-listener-friendly. In comparison, the Incredible String Band at its most serpentine and hippie-dippy was pure bubblegum pop.

Like the Pacific Northwest's modern folk-rockers Fleet Foxes or Blitzen Trapper, Grizzly Bear specializes in group vocals and an often acoustic, campfire vibe. But in place of the gorgeous and traditional harmonies, the New Yorkers favor a much more affected and, in my book, off-putting approach to the singing, evoking a bad imitation of Jeff Buckley's slippery crooning. Add to this the lo-fi digital production aesthetic--the musicians are as fond of laptop hiccups as they are of plucked, strummed or sawing strings--and you have a sound that's more Boho coffeehouse than backwoods hootenanny.

Far outnumbering the moments of quiet beauty ("Southern Point") and pop bliss ("Two Weeks") are the would-be lulling but in actuality boring bouts of pure inertia ("Hold Still," "Foreground") and the tuneless, meandering soundscapes that make me think of the Chipmunks on Ecstasy ("Dory," "Fine for Now")--and no, that it is not a compliment.

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22 Comments

This is possibly the worst review of this album you can find out there.

two stars? this CD is absolutely amazing! what i kind of POS are you and are you even qualified to review such an album? how about this.... go masturbate (AKA. eff your self) a little more instead of asserting your opinion. or better yet.... go get laid. Grizzly Bear and Veckatimest are genius. OH WAIT... This is the chicago sun times. aka. trouser chili of the journalism world. i digress.

An absolutely terrible review of an amazing album. It's a shame this is the first review that comes up in google. Listen to the album for yourself, and for a real review check out Pitchfork,

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/13078-veckatimest/

Thank you for publicly admitting that you don't have taste, and that you don't know what lo-fi means. The first step to recovery is acceptance.

Actually, the Pitchfork review was kind of incoherent gushing mess, kind of like their review for Kid A.

Jim Dero is fat and ugly and apparently has s--- taste. This album is 5 stars through and through. what a turd

he prolly loves the old steady

Jim... seriously? I think this review is going to be on the sound opinions episode, "Yea folks, we got this one wrong."

this article is why newspapers are dying

Dunno, Jim... I think we were listening to two completely different albums. I'm not sure what you heard that makes you think it sounds "contrived," but it's kind of funny -- that's the same word I used to talk about the Fleet Foxes record last year. I thought that one was crazy overrated; this one I think is pretty excellent (in spite of that awful Pitchfork review -- everybody out there, do yourselves a favor and listen to the album instead of reading that ridiculously fellating review).

I mean, you rightfully credit "Two Weeks," one of the best tunes I've heard all year. But how can you not dig on "All We Ask" in all its doo-wop-y freak folk grandeur? And I'm not sure what in the hell the Chipmunks on Ecstasy thing means in reference to "Dory," but I think that's one gorgeous tune, personally (and how that's Chipmunks on E but Bon Iver or D'Angelo isn't doesn't quite make sense to me; the only thing they have in common, which seems to be the only thing you're critiquing, is a high-pitched voice).

Beyond that, what you appear to see as "convoluted and downright un-listener-friendly" I think is just challenging. Granted, this more ELP than Ramones, but I think it's far more listener-friendly than, say, Merriweather Post Pavillion (which I think is a superior album). Moreover, since when is friendliness to the listener necessarily indicative of musical merit? I mean, acts like Matchbox 20 and Dave Matthews are pretty listener friendly, but that doesn't make them any good. By contrast, most people I know are not floored by Loveless; they get alienated by the foregrounded noise that you and I love so much. Would you argue that a listener-friendly record like Crash is superior to Loveless because it's more listener-friendly? Didn't think so.

All that said, you're totally right about "Hold Still" lacking any kind of momentum; it kind of just exists. I could see that tune working at a live show whilst baking out in the sun, but it bogs down this album the way "Daddy's in the Doldrums" did for the Secret Machines' otherwise-perfect Ten Silver Drops.

Oh, and haters: DeRo is not the only one not getting all weak-kneed by this album. Dusted also was less than impressed, giving a very similar review to Jim's. Get over yourselves and learn how to respectfully disagree.

Mockery does not equal criticism.

How is this guy employed???? Ridiculously stupid review--not because you dislike the album but rather because it's so transparent you just fundamentally have beef with the band...also it IS really poorly written, the chip muni line is jeuvenile

God forbid someone isn't a pitchfork sheep! Riot in the streets!

You know what a bad review of a good album gets ?
WEBTRAFFIC !!!!

Contrived is an absolutely ridiculous way to describe this album.

Regardless, it looks like Jim would be better served watching a few Richard Simmons tapes than reviewing music.

Contrived ! come on.......

Listen i will accept different points of view and differing opinions. with that being said i really actually feel offended by this review. this album is obviously a pinnacle of music in 2009. i was even taken aback by rollingstone only giving the album 3.5 stars. so please sir, would you reconsider your career. i dont believe that you are qualified.

Jim, please tell me more about this album's "lo-fi digital production aesthetic" or how anything on this album is even remotely lo-fi? There sure as hell is more going on here production-wise than that half-baked Wilco album, and I say that as a long-time Wilco fan. Maybe if Droste and Co. were from Chicago you'd feel differently.

It boggles the mind that you get paid to write about music.

I'm not even a huge Grizzly Bear fan, although I do enjoy this album, but really, REALLY, you are clearly a f---ng moron.

Musical opinion aside, this is an amatuerish review. You appear to be more focused on decrying the ecstatic reviews than evaluating whether the album works on its own mertis. Grizzly Bear is an experimental art rock band; if you criticize them for their meandering soundscapes, what standard are you holding them to? And as many above have noted, describing the layered and expansive production as lo-fi is just plain wrong.

I'm gonna defend Jim D here a little bit. While I do think this album has a great vibe and some strong cuts, I sometimes feel like its obvious the band is trying really hard to make a great album. Though they mostly succeed, it's not an effortless birth. Did they really need the children's choir in "Cheerleader"? Those strange clockwork noises in "I Live W/ You"? The fast hi-hats in "Southern Point"? Every song has an element in it that seems like it was placed there to be marveled at or puzzled over, like the details in a Wes Anderson Movie. It's creative, but also a little cloying. Veckatimast is crafted like a swiss watch and just as wound-up. It's not a "loose" album in the slightest, but that's a knowing choice on the part of its creators. The songs themselves are what make the album really fly, though I do feel like some are stronger than others.

When albums get praised like this, I sometimes wonder if it's an "emperor's new clothes" situation. Maybe we all should be all genuinely, universally in love with the album- or else. Great. But lets not bash those who disagree or have veering viewpoints. Let's talk it out & keep asking questions. Ultimately, time will be the true judge of this music.

just my two cents
-g

Not trying to squash dissenters opinions, it's just so clear this (rather unfortunately looking soul) was already against this band from the start. It's a bit like having a fan boy reviewing the album. Also, it was just plain poorly written. Chipmunks? Yet he loved passion pit? Might be time to retire this old sack, and get someone with a bit of a fresher perspective on things.

As Jim has his fingerprints on the book "Kill Your Idols" I understand the idea that no recording or album merits a universal praise from reviewers and fans. For one, I would agree with Jim on his comments about 'Fine For Now', possibly being something that could have been left off of this album but do not find a song like 'Foreground' all that boring but a perfect conclusion for the album in the same way that ‘Reservations’ concludes Wilco’s ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’. At the same time there are hidden gems like 'All We Ask' and 'I Live With You' which along with some of the tracks already mentioned (Southern Point, Two Weeks) constitute some of the best music that has come out this year. (This is not to mention other standouts like Ready, Able and While You Wait For Others).

Where I am slightly disappointed in Dero's review however, in knowing that this album has gotten critical acclaim, that he would explain some of his thoughts in more detail. While I do not think there is a standard in record reviews, this is not just your 3 second review of a pedestrian rock band but some people are saying is one of the best albums of the year.

This album seems to have wrapped so many elements of musical history into one album that both feels lo-fi but also very much a sonic exploration. Now, while I would argue that people making the critical statement that an album is "Challenging" I would respond that I do not like albums that are "Challenging for the sake of being Challenging" but that there is ample reward for listening to this album. The more that I listen to it, the more that I delve into it, the more rewards I am getting. Listening to it, I would say that the beginning tracks (1-3) and end tracks (7-12) is it’s strength.

While not up to the masterpiece work of Animal Collective’s ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ it’s a clear second place.

Jim, I don't know what's worse, your review or your photo.

Quick, lets find a younger fat and skinny guy to start a nationally syndicated rock talk show and put these dinosaurs back into extinction.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on May 26, 2009 4:31 PM.

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