Grizzly Bear released Yellow House in 2006. It was a slow, steady and stunning ride—boundless in scope and elegance. Given the album's otherworldly charm and staying power, it's hard to believe three years have gone by.
That might seem like a long time. But given Grizzly Bear's hectic touring schedule, including stints with Radiohead, TV On The Radio and Feist—as well as several performances during a five-night tribute to Paul Simon at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a co-headlining show with the L.A. Philharmonic, and the release of Friend, a 10-song EP of re-recorded and re-worked songs, collaborations and covers—all of this seems very reasonable. They've been busy.
But about a year ago, singer/songwriter Ed Droste, drummer Christopher Bear, bassist Chris Taylor and singer/songwriter/guitarist Daniel Rossen —whose other band, Department of Eagles, released the sublime In Ear Park last fall—began passing demos around and working together creatively in different pairs and permutations. A few months later, blessed with producer/engineer Chris Taylor's willingness to transport his recording equipment, they began the recording process for Veckatimest, which would unfold over the next six months in three very singular locations. And in many ways, it is the recording process that reveals this record—each space catalyzing different interactions, inspirations, and ultimately, songs.
In July, the band spent three weeks at the Glen Tonche house in upstate New York. The beauty, mystery and surrealistic feel to the estate made anything seem do-able, possible and even magical. Though still finding their feet, much of the album’s groundwork was laid there. After breaking briefly for the Radiohead tour in August, the band convened at a house on Cape Cod (graciously provided by Droste’s grandmother) where they re-addressed and solidified the compositions they’d started at Glen Tonche. Lastly, Grizzly Bear came home, to a church in NYC, to fine-tune and complete the album—named Veckatimest, after a tiny, uninhabited island on Cape Cod that the band visited and was inspired by, particularly liking its Native American name. Following initial mixes by Chris Taylor, the band brought Gareth Jones (Interpol, Liars) over from England for a final mixing session with Taylor. The album was then mastered by Greg Calbi. Artist William O’Brien created Veckatimest‘s colorful, hand drawn artwork—a perfect compliment to the album’s enigmatic title.
There is an unbelievable clarity of sound and vision to Veckatimest: vocals (a duty now shared by all band members) are sharper and more complex, arrangements are tighter, production is more venturous and lyrics more affecting. Having opened the creative dialogue at such an early stage, Grizzly Bear was able to realize these 12 songs together as a band, making it their most collaboratively compositional album to date. Taylor’s artistry as a producer and engineer has only gotten stronger, both Rossen and Droste’s conviction as singers and lyricists has swelled, and Bear’s authority behind the drums is striking.
This yielded an unexpected mix of material that feels more confidant, mature, focused—and most of all, dynamic. From songs like “Dory” (a gracefully psychedelic, ever-evolving work),”Ready, Able” (a synth-y opus, and one of four songs that boasts string arrangements by composer Nico Muhly) and “Foreground” (a plaintive, vocal-driven send-off, and one of two songs to feature choral arrangements also by Muhly) to more resounding pop songs like “Two Weeks” (an other-worldly doo wop featuring backing vocals from Beach House’s Victoria LeGrand) and “While You Wait For the Others” (a triumphant and melodically cacophonous pop masterpiece), Veckatimest is an album of the highest highs and lowest lows—an unbelievably diverse collection of songs that celebrates the strength of each band member, and the power of the whole. It was well worth the wait.