Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest

Hello Jon.
I hope you had a great weekend.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the new Grizzly Bear record. It strikes me as being an important release. I am tempted to call it "timeless." At the very least, I get the feeling that the band was attempting to create an honest and lasting piece of art.

In fact, it seems to be an album about time. Or about the passing of time. And, of course, love. The futility of time in the face of love. Time is inescapable, except to love. The word "time" appears in several of the songs, and in others, the lyrics seem to suggest the past or future. (If I had the lyrics here in front of me, I would write them out for you.) It is funny that the word "time," is even hidden in the album's title, Veckatimest, which is the name of a small, uninhabited island on Cape Cod. And you know how time can seem lost in such a place. I am listening now, and I can tell you this much:

There was time, it took time
There is time, so much time
There is time, so much time

The package itself is worth the twenty dollars. William O'Brien can be thanked for the mesmerizing artwork: hand-drawn geometric shapes made distinct by such soothing, exquisite colors. I love it. The theme is continued on the labels of each LP. And each side of the two inner sleeves is a different, complementary color. You'll want to hold the sleeves in your hand as you listen to the music so that you can be transported into these blissful, quiet fields, allowing the world around you to blur into auburn and hazel. You can visit the band's website to get an idea.

Also included is a full-color, heavy-stock, 12-page book of photographs which seem to document the band's experience with recording Veckatimest. On one page, you see the band walking along some rocky paths (are they on the island?), and on another page, you see a tangle of cables, silent effects pedals, keyboards, mixers.

While the music has a sort of sunshine to it, the songs feel autumnal. But don't be confused: Veckatimest is not a decline, but a rise. These are pop songs of the most ambitious sort. I don't know what this music is. The band blends so many sounds and eras and inspirations. There is soul and a kind of avant-folk, I guess, in a Fleet Foxes kind of way with such painfully beautiful voices, but there is also some psychedelic rock and perhaps even a touch of something you might call "prog," but I don't know about that. There are glistening guitars and swooshing synths and enormous vocal harmonies—divine vocal harmonies, ghostly vocal harmonies—and skittering rhythms and adventurous arrangements. There is a string section and there is the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, conducted by the young and talented Nico Muhly.

There's no time to go through the designs we know

Veckatimest was recorded in three separate locations: the Glen Tonche house in upstate New York, a house in Cape Cod, and a church in New York City. Engineer Chris Taylor traveled from place to place with his recording gear. The sound is excellent and true. Greg Calbi did the final mastering.

I wonder if you can tell me what this album sounds like. I'm making a copy for JA, too, because I think he needs to hear it. Perhaps you'll tell me that I'm wrong about this album, that it's been done before and better. I'd like to know. I'd like to go deep into this album. For now, I think it's something that I'll love for a long, long time.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Well, Jon Iverson has listened and he says he hears nothing ground-breaking here, but he does admire what the band is doing. He feels that they exhibit a mastery of their influences, which include Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and the Beach Boys.Jon's musical frame of reference is enormous and deep, so I trust him. However, I do wonder if there is any ground left to break. Maybe there can only be new combinations of old things, maybe a mastery of influences is the best we can hope for.Jon adds that a band like the Beach Boys had their own musical references, but they sounded like no one else to a greater degree than, for instance, Grizzly Bear.

Jim Teacher's picture

That spam is almost timeless art.

freenwood's picture

I feel the descriptions above could also be applied to Animal Collective. Have you heard those guys at all? I couldn't define their sound satisfactorily, but it's kinda avant/psychedelic folky-pop, complete with swooshy synths and sampling and some jagged edges among layered vocal harmonies (esp. the latest album, which definitely has Beach Boys derivations/influences). I'll try to get my hands on Grizzly Bear to compare.I also often wonder about the "any ground left to break?" issue myself. Hopefully the wells of creativity and musical technology are not tapped out yet.

Christian's picture

I have thought the same thing of Panda Bear (which I think is a part of Animal Collective). I loved that last album Person Pitch. I have also been looking closely at the Animal Collective album but haven't been able to part with the cash to do it. BTW kudos in some sick perverted way as that was the most creative use of spam that I have ever seen; Stephen you are breaking new ground even when you're not trying to.

michaelavorgna's picture

Here's Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes:"Veckatimest is so good it makes me want to quit and become a banker."

selfdivider's picture

Of course, because bankers and corporate types are incapable of creativity and soul-enhancing art. grrr.... (umm, but have you heard of Wallace Stevens, the VP of Insurance Company? or Charles Ives, another insurance executive?)

michaelavorgna's picture

Ives and Stevens are 2 great exceptions to millions of rules. 13 ways of looking at a dividend?

kev313's picture

O thin man of 6moons, Why do you not imagine golden corporate executives? Do you not see how the bankers Walk around the computer screensOf your websites?I also provide discount electronics provide china cell phone, MP3, MP4 and more other electronics products - need shoes?

Lawrence Solum's picture

Jon Iverson's deeply informed comment does not quite jive with my reaction to the album, but perhaps we are looking for different things. I listen to hundreds of new albums every year, and revisit thousands. Only a few albums a year hit me hard--demanding that I return immediately and repeatedly. Veckatimist is one of those. It is too early to say whether this is an truly important record--that judgment can only come in retrospect after listening, putting away, listening again. Sometimes we see greatest years after the first listen, but I never know it for sure the first few times through.