Following up what many have thought to be a masterpiece has been the undoing of many a fine band. On the one hand there are the bands who all too easily succumb to the temptation of churning out the same record again in the vain hope that the fans of the former will surely respond in the same way to hearing the same yet again. While this logic seems sound, unsurprisingly, not many people want to spend their hard earned moolah on something they already own.
On the opposite hand then is the band who treats this crest of adulation as a platform to indulge their deepest creative urges. Occasionally reinventing themselves in a new and even more crazy style, unfortunately more often than not collapsing in on themselves in a self indulgent parody of former glories. Not often though is when a band opts to go for the dusty and oft overlooked option number three — to refine to the point of infinity what was so lauded before until we are left to realise that what we thought would be the pinnacle of their achievement, was simply only the first ridge on their epic assent.
There are many who have already lazily labeled Grizzly Bear as this years Fleet Foxes but Veckatimest (named after an uninhabited island on the Cap Cod coast close to where the album was recorded) is the culmination of work that began on 2006’s Yellow House. Meticulously put together the record is a collage of sounds on a scale not often attempted and far less realised.
Album opener “Southern Point” starts off gentle enough before running away into dissonance. The layers of sound take repeated listens to strip away but the rewards are immense. Small parcels of sounds reveal themselves at the most unexpected of times but placed together the whole draws on a dynamism that would be impossible without the individual parts. I would love to see how they will be able to recreate this live.
Probably the closest Veckatimest comes to having a single is on the Van Dyke Parks-esque ‘Two Weeks”. Brian Wilson would kill to have as exquisite harmonies as these but, as is true of the whole record, it’s the entire arrangement that is so wonderful. “All We Ask””s brushed guitar strums bears more than a passing resemblance to Mercury Rev at their most resplendent while “Fine for Now” begins with a gorgeous sweeping orchestration before ending in a psychedelic freak Jonathan Donahue would be proud of.
“While You Wait for Others” is, like so much on this record, one part girl group chorus and two parts other worldly instrumentation. The cinematic feel continues though with “I Live With You”, resplendent in its lush instrumentation this leads from a single chord to an almighty cacophony that shows just how high Grizzly Bear have now set the bar. Album closer “Foreground” brings to mind summer evenings where the ground still resonates with gentle warmth from the day’s sun. Lilting piano and angelic voices mix to bring to a close one of the most lavish albums that we have heard in many a year.
It would be remiss of me at his junction to not point to out where in the scheme of things Veckatimest sits in amongst this years over hyped records — although the more observant of you have already clocked the rating at the top of this page. Let’s be honest, forgetting the usual buzz that record companies generate in order to pass on their wares it’s not often that a record of such majesty comes along. It’s concocted so perfectly that there is nothing to fault here, really who can decry the effort and intricacy that has resulted in an epic record that is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.