"Two Weeks" / Grizzly Bear
Sorry, I've been away for a few days, packing my eldest up and sending him off to college. (Wistful moment, eh?) One of his last requests before we left home was for me to do a blog post on Grizzly Bear, one of his favorite new bands. How could I refuse a last request like that? And then, lo and behold, when we got to campus, there were posters all over advertising a Grizzly Bear concert in two weeks. That totally seems like the big finger from the sky pointing out that he's gonna love college.
I think Hugh first discovered this band when they were opening for Radiohead (Hugh has incredibly good ears for new music; he has a history of liking opening acts better than the headliners). At any rate, they're one of those groovy Brooklyn indie bands that all the hipster kids know; their first album,* Yellow House, won all sorts of kudos. This song is from their second,* released this year, which has the weird name Veckatimest. Don't ask me.
Hugh and I were on a Fleet Foxes kick this summer (and just for the record, I was the one who bought that CD first, Hugh, so make sure you didn't take it to college with you). The first thing he told me about Grizzly Bear is that they're into vocal harmonies, just like Fleet Foxes -- that was a hook I couldn't resist. I've also seen them referred to as psych-folk, and that intrigued me too, promising all sorts of Robyn Hitchcockian delights. Well, the psych part I get, with the gauzy, floaty textures of this song, the ebbing and flowing waves of vocals pouring over a loose-jointed syncopation. The lyrics aren't quite as deliciously absurd as Hitchcock's, but they're appealingly disjointed, tentative fragments of inarticulate phrases flung like frisbees into the wall of sound. (Here's the chorus: "Would you always / Maybe sometimes / Make it easy / Take your time.") Another thing I love about this song is the way they layer on a wall of sound and then periodically arrest the process -- the musical equivalent of biting their nails -- peeling the song back to the bare essentials: bass, drums, that pulsating electric piano. (Repeat after me: the piano is a percussion instrument.) It's an intensely textured song, and right now I'm into texture.
I have to say, the band I most think of when I listen to this song is the Smiths. In my book, that's a HUGE recommendation. Maybe it's the odd harmonic intervals that the singer hits, leaping up to his falsetto range; but I think it more that emotionally fragile quality, that neurotic yearning that Morrissey made his trademark. The singer is clearly agonizing over a relationship that's threatening to fizzle. At the end of every verse, he reiterates, "Just like yesterday / I told you I would stay." What can't she get about that promise? Phrases like "a routine malaise" and "momentary phase" edge nervously into the verses, and in the last verse he frets, "Every time you try / Quarter half the mile."
Modern relationships are so much work, dammit, and all too often it's only one half of the couple that's doing all the work. We ladies like to think it's usually us doing the heavy lifting, but along come these skinny-jean males with the glossy, floppy hair, who protest that they're the ones doing the emnotional heavy lifting. And maybe they are, maybe they are. So long as they can harmonize like this, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Two Weeks sample
* If you don't count the solo album Ed Droste put out before he formed an actual band.