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Joshua X

CD of The Week

Week of 8/21/17

    Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins (RCA)

    A lot has changed in the five years since Grizzly Bear's last album Shields, in the world, in music, and within the band itself. Members got married, became parents, and got divorced while the genre that is indie music seemed to absorb all other genres into itself overnight and streaming services changed the way we listen to them. These circumstances raised a lot of questions about how a band who have always sounded of another era entirely, and whose work is often best consumed as a whole rather than song by song, might respond or continue. For better or worse (mostly better), the answer presented by Painted Ruins appears to be "Grizzly Bear gonna Grizzly Bear."

    In a lot of ways, it sounds like hardly any time has passed between albums at all. The intricate interplay that was cemented on Shields is still very much in play here, particularly on the propulsive "Mourning Sound" and shuffling "Three Rings," two cuts wisely selected as advance singles. Elsewhere, they remind the listener of the cinematic sprawl they pulled off on previous masterwork Veckatimest via the sauntering psychedelia of "Losing All Sense," the tumbling "Neighbors," and the thundering closer "Sky Took Hold." Lyrically, the songs are as oblique yet evocative as ever, successfully conjuring imagery while leaving context behind it almost meticulously mysterious.

    If there are any complaints about this continued commitment to their bag of tricks, which remain formidable if familiar, it's that, again, this doesn't sound like an album that was preceded by a five year wait. It also lacks a single with the instant indelibility of "Two Weeks" or "Yet Again." You likely won't see viral videos of the Knowles-Carters vibing to anything here. As Grizzly Bear continue to piece their puzzle together with the patience of Gadot, it becomes harder for newcomers to latch on and listen when attention spans have grown ever shorter.

    That said, maybe that's ok. There's an odd comfort for long time listeners in hearing bands like this pick back up where they left off and continue to build, however incrementally, on what came before. Painted Ruins, like its predecessors, rewards patience and repeat listens. It just might take a little longer than two weeks to reap those rewards this time.

    See Grizzly Bear back in Philly on November 7th at The Fillmore.
    Review by Rob Huff

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