Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

‘Decade’s best album’

Brooklyn is the undisputed capital of left-of-centre music right now. Earlier this year, Animal Collective delivered their ninth album, a near masterpiece.

And now, another of the borough's hottest propositions, Grizzly Bear, step into the ring with Veckatimest – named after an island off the Massachusetts coast – that’s been described by Robin Pecknold, Fleet Foxes frontman, as the best album of the decade. No pressure then!

The album starts with a pair of songs so good you think Mr Fleet Foxes just might be right. Southern Point is a rambling, atmospheric number with gorgeous harmonising, as if The Beach Boys had made a guest appearance on Van Morrison's Astral Weeks.

Two Weeks is just as remarkable. Again, the ghost of Brian Wilson et al looms large, and this time it's Beach Boys circa Smile. There’s real innovation, too, and the vocals of Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen play off each other spectacularly well.

The first half of the album is as remarkable as any this critic has heard this year. The languid Fine For Now benefits from a sensitive arrangement from Nico Mulhy – who helped make Ane Brun's most recent album so captivating – and from the vocals of Rossen, whose honeyed tones reveal him to be a crooner of some distinction.

Cheerleader, meanwhile, boasts hypnotic vocals and the sort of textured backdrop best heard through headphones.

I've listened to it at least 30 times over the past week and it gets better every time. The gently acoustic Dory is a shimmering delight, resplendent in a production that highlights the ghostly quality of the vocals. It sounds like the best track Radiohead never recorded.

The quality dips ever so slightly towards the end of the dozen-track set, but even its lesser moments – I Live With You – for instance, are superior to what most bands manage.

Veckatimest may not trip off the tongue, but for anybody who likes their music as challenging as it is inventive, it's as good a place to start as any.

Burn it: Southern Point, Two Weeks, Fine For Now

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