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Grizzly Bear: Painted Ruins

by Ryan Reed on September 12, 2017

Grizzly Bear’s music has always existed in its own sphere, with art-rock textures and imagistic lyrics that feel more intellectual than their indie peers. (It’s worth remembering that drummer Chris Bear and guitarist Daniel Rossen first met at jazz camp.) And when the quartet marries their love of widescreen ambience with their love of melody, the quality of their songwriting is also peerless. “Two Weeks” and “Cheerleader,” both of which appear at their 2009 breakthrough Veckatimest, are two of indie music’s modern standards—like “Over the Rainbow” for dudes in beanies. That said, Painted Ruins, their fifth album, and first in five years, approaches that lofty benchmark on several occasions. “Three Rings” showcases their intricate vocal blend. Led by the resonant coo of Ed Droste over a ringing guitar arpeggio and clanging electronic percussion, it is one of their most visceral moments to date. Droste commandeers the similarly forceful “Mourning Sound,” anchored by Chris Taylor’s post-punk bass bark and Rossen’s psychedelic guitar pings. These highlights occupy Painted Ruins’ blissful first half, after which the band dials down the energy to the detriment of the album’s flow—a couple of the Rossen-led pieces, including “Glass Hillside,” drift by in a richly arranged haze. If you have to indulge their ambient tangents to earn their ear candy, then it’s a deal worth making. “Like a rogue wave you wash right over me/ losing all sense of what my body could feel/ I was able to drift away from here,” Droste offers on “Losing All Sense.” Even in their most dynamic moments, Grizzly Bear still offers a similar escapism.
Authors: Ryan Reed
Artist: Grizzly Bear
Album: Painted Ruins
Label: RCA