Home-recorded songs can feel incomplete whilst being as tantalizingly indicative as the sketches before a painting. The outlines, though interesting in their own respect, are not as satisfying as the finished version. Grizzly Bear, however, have approached song writing as a craft to master from their very first album, Horn of Plenty onwards. Enamored by how a song "reads", they were fully present from prologue to denouement even though singer/songwriter Edward Droste recorded them by himself in his Brooklyn bedroom. Fuelled by a bout of post-relationship inspiration, those first songs celebrated the creative liberation of the ProTools era. They explored the depths of break-ups through crystal-clear tones, field sounds and woozy, complex harmonies.
Droste has now gathered a band: Christopher Bear (name entirely coincidental) played drums and helped polish Horn of Plenty in its final stages; Chris Taylor soon followed the duo post HOP release and was responsible for electronics, woodwinds, bass, and vocals; Daniel Rossen sang, played guitar and contributed new songs. The line-up was complete, and as a newly established four piece, they began musical exploration. The music was sweet, and the instrumentation and live show grew in ambition. The songs were remixed by figureheads at the forefront of the electronic music scene: Efterklang, Dntel and Soft Pink Truth.
The new material that comprises Yellow House (released on Warp Records on September 4th) puts the band at the vanguard of contemporary song writing. The album was self-recorded during an idyllic summer. The makeshift studio was provided by Droste's mom's living room in a yellow house just off Cape Cod.
Magical, haunting melodies are still their mainstay. Grizzly Bear always craft their songs from start to finish - meticulous instrumentation and arrangements are their specialty. On Yellow House, Grizzly Bear still flex their lo-fi connoisseurship, but with a better recording - DIY embellished with Taylor's fine sonic engineering acumen. Droste and Rossen share initial song writing duties, although the entire band collaborates to breath life into the tracks.
Grizzly Bear rediscovered "Marla" - a lovely downtrodden waltz written by Droste's great-aunt in the 1930s - and rescued it from history and revamped it in signature Grizzly Bear style: with piano, strings (composed and arranged by Final Fantasy), brushed drums and haunting layered voices, dusted over with the faintest hint of electronics. It sounds like a gorgeous day in a dusty attic. Then there is "Little Brother", a folky guitar piece flanked by flute, and "Lullabye," the sweetest cirrus-cloud-of-a-piece hinged on the hopeful chorus, "Chin up! Cheer up!" The phrase is layered to a massive crescendo of voices, and sounds like a sacred incantation. "Knife" is pure, sublime Grizzly Bear. "Colorado" is an enveloping, sweeping, and dare I say epic-sounding finale to a far-reaching and ambitious album.
Grizzly Bear do not skimp. They're remarkable not just for their attention to detail but for their concern for how a song FEELS: flush with heart and melancholy, their music is seductive and intimate, deep with hazy-eyed choruses, whistles, piano and banjo. They know melody and ambiance are necessary complements. This is experimental mood music with love for classics and standards. It's the kind of stuff you yearn to crank up when you're lying in bed on a Sunday.
Grizzly Bear now calls Warp Records home. The label is well known for nurturing talents like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Jamie Lidell, Maximo Park, Broadcast and Prefuse 73. Yellow House, will mark the bands debut for the label, melding the guerrilla spirit of the digital age with the classic American songbook.
Grizzly Bear is Christopher Bear (drummer/vocals), Edward Droste (singer/guitarist), Daniel Rossen (singer/guitarist) and Christopher Taylor (bass/woodwinds/electronics/vocals).