Hearing Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen’s voices on a new Grizzly Bear album for the first time in five years evokes a pretty wide range of emotions. From the sense of nostalgia— bringing back thoughts, memories, and feelings of eras past—to the soothing sensibility that comes along with simply hearing the harmonies and immense, layered instrumentation that the band has claimed as its hallmark, there’s not much like the all-too-uncommon moment of a new Grizzly Bear album release.
Painted Ruins, out today, is the band’s first record in five years—and it finds all of its members in different places than where we last found them. Not only is the surrounding setting different, obviously—the world in 2017 is a way different place from the world in 2012—but the members of the band have all relocated. Formerly one of Brooklyn’s beloved hometown bands, members are now scattered along the west coast, the laid-back setting fitting perfectly with the low-key vibe that the four-piece group has always possessed.
And that album, as every Grizzly Bear album before it, is distinctly Grizzly Bear—you won’t ever mistake this band for another—but is also totally different from each album before it. This isn’t like Shields, nor is it like Veckatimest or Yellow House before it. Nope; while all the pieces remain familiar, Grizzly Bear once again manages to successfully reinvent themselves into something entirely new.
In the album’s 11-track, 48-minute running time, each song finds a different way to stand out. “Mourning Sound” in particular is the band’s most accessible song from a ‘catchy listening’ standpoint since the VW ad–featured “Two Weeks.” Strong chord progressions combined with Droste’s strong vocals (with assistance from Rossen on the choruses) make for a song that ticks all the qualifications for one of those songs that you just know is going to resonate with its intended audience. Much like a “Swing Lo Magellan” from Dirty Projectors or Death Cab for Cutie’s “Soul Meets Body,” you can just tell right off the bat that we’ll be hearing this one on indie playlists and in coffee shops for years to come.
The old mood remains at times as well: “Three Rings” has instrumentation that is heard, upon close listenings, in different parts and layers. While Painted Ruins is entirely its own new thing, “Three Rings” sounds closer to a song on one of the band’s older albums—in this case, Shields—than any other.
As always, this isn’t a band, a record, or a song that benefits from being heard on your Apple Earbuds (though the songs will still rock). This music has a lot going on, and deserves to be heard on the highest quality audiophile equipment that you can find. Another highlight is “Losing All Sense,” which almost, kinda sounds like instrumentation that you could find on a Parquet Courts album, but it has Droste’s vocals swirling the whole thing up and making you entirely re-imagine everything that you’re hearing into that Ed/Daniel lens.
For fans of Grizzly Bear, it’s hard to imagine a desire for anything more. The members may have relocated across the country and taken a bit of time off, but the music itself hasn’t gone anywhere.
Listen to Painted Ruins via Spotify below.
Grizzly Bear will perform a trio of shows at Brooklyn Steel on November 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.