Veckatimest, the third LP from Grizzly Bear, is quite possibly the most-anticipated music release of 2009. Music bloggers have been exclaiming from the rooftops of its impending grandeur for months, a re-run of the treatment Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion received earlier this year. And, much like Animal Collective's effort, this album turns out to be everything the music critics said it would be. Maybe even more.
All the hype boiled over when Veckatimest was leaked unprecedentedly early, three entire months before the album's intended release. Audiophiles ravenously feasted on the lo-fi version. The preview gave listeners a healthy dose of what the band had been busy concocting in upstate New York, a Brooklyn church, and Cape Cod (the album takes its name from an uninhabited island off the New England coast), but the leak lacks the level of sound quality needed to appreciate the level of precision and meticulous detail that appears throughout the twelve new songs.
The band labored over this record, throwing different ingredients in until they reached the perfect blend, the desired explosion. And there are plenty of sparks on Veckatimest. By inching away from the darker atmosphere of 2006's Yellow House, the band has reached clearer skies where the sun is shining and bright pop songs are permitted.
"Southern Point," a frenetic, ringing track that builds and builds, kicks things off in this sunny manner. Summery first single, "Two Weeks" carries on the up-beat motif with infectious choral harmonizing and vampy keys. As if the song wasn't enough to ooh and ahh over, the band enlisted Beach House's Victoria LeGrand to lend her coo to the backing vocals. And the music video, directed by Patrick Daughters, is just as impressive with its creepy big-eyed altar boys and exploding heads (watch it below). Other sure-fire hits are the rah-rah worthy "Cheerleader," the so-pretty-it-hurts "Ready, Able," and the '60s influenced "While You Wait for the Others."
Grizzly Bear isn't really known for their lyrics, as they usually prove too oblique to decipher, but there is a reoccuring narrative thread that pokes through Veckatimest. Many of the songs deal with the distance between two people and the implications that come with such space (longing, isolation, detachment). Lovers fight to stay close on "I Live With You" ("They'll try to keep us apart"), doubt a future together on "Southern Point" ("Will I return to you, will you return to me?"), and politely concede permanent separation on "While You Wait for the Others" ("I'll ask you kindly to make your way"). Veckatimest may not sound like it at first, but it's more or less a collection of love songs, separate accounts of a pumping heart and what happens when that heart is put at risk. Nothing gets more romantic than "All We Ask," a dreamy ode from Venus that ends with an instrumental breakdown built around a simple line: I can't get out of what I'm into with you.
Despite its tendency towards brightness and romance, Veckatimest never feels overly precious; in fact, it has quite the bite. The experience of listening to the album is a bit like what might happen if you met an actual grizzly in the woods. You could run, but the bear would be faster. You could brandish that stick over there, but he would just swallow it down along with your arm. The only thing left to do is let him have his way with you.