Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grizzly Bear and Beach House at The Blue Note, 10/1

Can't-miss concert reminder! Two huge shows are happening back to back this week at The Blue Note: Andrew Bird with St. Vincent (see my earlier post on the show) on Wednesday, September 30, and Grizzly Bear with Beach House on Thursday, October 1.

Grizzly Bear, those dapper gents from Brooklyn, are bringing the Veckatimest to Columbia with a vengeance. The name of their latest album (released May 26, 2009) sums up everything mysterious and shadowy and downright cryptic about the band and its curiosity shop of sound. (Actually, Veckatimest is named after a small island in Dukes County, Massachusetts—not exactly a remote Bavarian pleasure palace.)

Based on name alone, you might expect the members of Grizzly Bear to bear close resemblance to Grizzly Adams.

When I first discovered them shortly after the release of their second album, Yellow House, in 2006, I had this mental picture in my head:

(That's Keef Hartley of Woodstock fame, in case you're curious.)

But instead, we find that Grizzly Bear is made up of some rather well-coiffed young musicians: Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen on lead vocals, guitar, and keyboard, producer/backup vocalist Chris Taylor on bass, and backup vocalist Christopher Bear on drums. (That's right, Chris Taylor plays a mean bass and also knows how to rock when making all of the band's travel arrangements.)

Sean Pecknold produced and animated "While You Wait for the Others." (Sean is the brother of Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold and created the video for "White Winter Hymnal," just in case you're sketching out the old indie family tree.) Rabbits, fencing gear, and stop-motion animation, oh my!

There's something dark and slightly off-kilter about these tracks, as if, beneath the broad vocal harmonies and bouncy keyboards, a brooding beast lies in wait, lurking in its subterranean lair. This penchant for acid-trip-gone-wrong complexity--those crunchy, jarring, echoing guitars--makes Grizzly Bear one of my current favorites. Critics have often labeled them experimental, but while their previous albums featured ambient, aural soundscapes built on swirling melodies, Veckatimest reaches a more accessible, almost doo-wop level. The new songs are downright singable, which may throw off music snobs who savor the hairy mess or obtuseness of an "artier" sound. Love it or hate it, Grizzly Bear has wandered out of the forest...

... and into a CGI studio. Patrick Daughters, of "1234" Feist-y fame, directed the subtly creepy video for "Two Weeks."

Some Grizzly Bear Scat

  1. White-haired priest of power balladry Michael McDonald sings "While You Wait for the Others" on the flip side of the band's single. Listen here, but be forewarned: it doesn't exactly achieve the effortless kitsch cool you might be expecting. Michael McDonald sounds like... well, Michael McDonald.

  1. Daniel Rossen is also a member of the duo Department of Eagles.
  1. Jay-Z, Beyonce, and sister Solange are apparently fans. A YouTube search for Grizzly Bear turns up a lame and inexplicable video of the pair at a Grizzly Bear concert in New York. Click here if you want to waste one minute and thirty-four seconds of your life.
I leave you with a beachy version of one of my favorite Grizzly Bear songs, "Deep Blue Sea."

Beach House

Beach House is the dreamy, atmospheric duo of Alex Scalley on guitar and keyboards and Victoria Legrand on vocals and organ. Formed in 2004 in Baltimore, Beach House is rapturously moody: it makes an elaborate ceremony of ripping your heart out. This is music for an empty beach house—the beach house that gets boarded up at the end of summer vacation with sheet-covered furniture inside. The songs on Devotion (September 2, 2008) are dismal and gloomy, and you will love their brooding sea salt in your wounds.

Fall in love with the sacramental glow of "Heart of Chambers."

Don't miss Andrew Bird and St. Vincent at The Blue Note, Wednesday, September 30 (7:00 pm), and Grizzly Bear and Beach House, Thursday, October 1 (7:30 pm).

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