Record of the Week - 04/06/09
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Veckatimest is an uninhabited island close to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Veckatimest the album, however, is deceptively full of life. This is one of a series of paradoxes at the heart of this record. It feels awkward, each note having been carefully chosen, or composed, as some have suggested, but it comes across entirely comfortable with its nods to folk and experimentalism. It feels adventurous, but in an entirely safe way, like taking a trip after many hours happy reflection deep within the folds of a forgiving sofa, but only to the lush confines of some walled garden.
There will be and have been inevitable comparisons made with Animal Collective’s Post Merriweather Pavilion. Both records are experimental and have had loose genres such as folk, pop and generic indie, even combinations thereof, thrown at them with the hope one might stick. The Animal Collective album however was full of giddy abandon; Veckatimest is truly hammock-worthy in its more relaxed approach.
The close harmonies of West Coast classics live on in this record, as they did in Fleet Foxes’ successful release last year. Yet, there is much more at play here. The infectious bounce of ‘Two Weeks’ is loveable in a way Fleet Foxes were not, which is to say, if they were ‘White Winter Hymnal’, then this is summertime swoon.
The vocal is ever warm and dreamy to the point of Deerhunter. ‘Cheerleader’ strongly recalls the considered plod of Brandon Cox’s ‘Saved By Old Times’. The bubbling harmony, acoustic strumming, plucks and mid-tempos that start ‘Dory’ bring Department of Eagles to mind. The orchestral quality of ‘Hold Still’, with its choir-like vocal hints at the scope of the album’s potential. ‘While You Wait For The Others’ confirms it with its epiphanic and soaring vocal. Whilst it is not all about the vocal, here, it firmly is. Album closer, ‘Foreground’, proves this and ushers the listen to a close with twinkles in ivory-tickled tristesse - a touching and fitting close to an album, which if not immediate, nor, curiously, especially memorable, does affect the listener in its sentiment and aesthetic.
Whether an injection of urgency would have cooked the mix too quickly or woken it from its comfortable reverie we will never know. Nevertheless, what is certain is that one Veckatimest is sure to be full of admirers from here on in.
Brontosaurus Chorus - You’ve Created A Monster
This impeccably named ensemble sadly comes off like a pop-lite Long Blondes doing Mighty Mighty Bosstones covers. Sure, there is a dash of latter-day Sleeper wetness and Los Campesinos twee to offset this pop-ska monstrosity, but since when has that been a good thing?
Nauseating trumpet, far from Beirut’s inspired use, hampers early tracks; Lowther’s vocal is generally irksome throughout. The album seems to have missed the mid-90s boat, a boat now resoundingly sunk. Certain latter tracks add a little variety and witness Curtis’s vocal used to coherent effect. The final track, ‘The Plot’ is the possible highlight, slower and more dignified than earlier numbers.
Not unlistenable, but not far from it, Brontosaurus Chorus need to return to the drawing board and come back with something more than a decent name. Oh, and FYI, calling the album, ‘You’ve Created A Monster’, not a good idea. It’s almost too easy.
Arthur & Yu - In Camera
‘Pretty As A Picture’
As childhood nicknames go, ‘Arthur’ and ‘Yu’ are pretty cool, an ethos that evidently stuck through to record-producing adulthood. They flirt with twee harmonies but immerse them with lashings of reverb and 60s folk-pop sensibilities to create an effortless and dreamy collection. Arthur’s echo-y drawl and occasional whistle bring Peter, Björn and John to mind, if they were anything but one trick ponies. This sound however is decidedly less showy, but no less pretty.
Nodding album highlight ‘Afterglow’, like most, is an understated display in druggy acoustics and electric jangles, which firmly imprints the Velvet Underground as an influence. Equally familiar is ‘Ghost Of Old Bull Lee’, which featured on the best of 2007 Rough Trade album, a sure sign of its pedigree. ‘1000 Words’ is a lesser number, but does feature a credible James Walsh impersonation. Make of that what you will. ‘Come To View (Song For Neil Young)’ does what it says on the tin.
In Camera has that proper indie feel about it missing in so many records, albeit heavily diluted with pop. They’ve taken risks and pulled them off, and the result is near picture perfect.
Abe Vigoda - Skeleton
Combining Animal Collective’s experimental harmonies with New Age’s new-wave punk was always going to be interesting. That Abe Vigoda decided to bring some world beats to the party too is all the more exciting. However, it is the resultant coherency, if not immediacy, that is most surprising. Whilst there is little stand out on Skeleton, this energetic pill is best taken whole and it cements this classy act as front-runners of LA’s Club Smell (no, really) scene.
And So I Watch You From Afar - S/T
‘Worth Watching From Any Distance’
Indulgent, smile-inducing post-rock with its guitars firmly set to rock, despite their claims on ‘Set Guitars To Kill’, this is Sigur Rós as envisaged by prog-metallers, Godspeed! with less intricacy, but everything turned up to eleven. A few quiet intros, like on ‘Start A Band’ lull the collection toward punishing batteries. It could be Explosions In The Sky on steroids, Mono flexing their inner rock. It could even be an instrumental … Trail Of Dead album; the band name certainly suggests an affiliation. Herein however, lies the problem, whilst worthy, it is resolutely stamped with others’ work. Not that that inhibits its enjoyment; just try and stop air-drumming or furiously introspective head banging at inopportune moments during a daily commute.
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