For those of you in the know, Grizzly Bear has probably been on your list of favorite bands since their debut album, Horn of Plenty, was released in late 2004. The album began as a fun side project for singer/songwriter Edward Droste, and was initially meant to be heard only by close friends. He asked college friend Christopher Bear, a music major at NYU at the time, to help fine-tune the demo tracks he had written; Bear ended up contributing additional vocals and drums to what would eventually become the final cut of the album. But Droste didn’t want to perform solo, so he created a band: fellow NYU students Chris Taylor and Daniel Rossen were brought on board to fill out and strengthen the group for live performances. It wasn’t long before New York’s underground music scene took notice of the new Brooklyn-based, indie rock band.
I have to stop myself here. To call Grizzly Bear’s music simply “indie rock” would do it a great disservice; there is also a bit of the avant-garde tightly interwoven with the more traditional acoustic folk. The result is a sound characterized by dense musical arrangements and ethereal melodies that have a tendency to meander, but never to bore. Each note and every vocal layer feels carefully wrought and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It makes the songs feel emotionally familiar and yet, never predictable. Despite Grizzly Bear’s obvious attention to detail, the music never feels fussy. Thank God.
More officially, their sound has been dubbed “freak-folk” by the label police. Don’t know what freak-folk is? Look it up. I’ve got things to do and people to see—and by that, I mean I have a dog to walk.
In 2006, Grizzly Bear released their second full-length album, Yellow House. It was the first album recorded with all four members of the band and was named for the house where it was recorded (Droste’s mother’s place in Massachusetts). Both the New York Times and Pitchfork rated it among the best new albums of 2006. The band quickly followed it up in 2007 with another well-recieved album, Friend EP. Continuing their successful creative run, the band released the critically acclaimed album, Veckatimest in 2009. The title comes from an island off the shore of Cape Cod and the album demonstrated tremendous growth in the group—it frequently appeared on “Best of” lists for 2009 including those of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Pitchfork.
Grizzly Bear has earned comparisons to The Animal Collective, Sigur Ros, and even Radiohead (who they opened for in a string of concerts in 2008—not an easy task considering Radiohead’s often persnickety fan base). They have also toured with TV on the Radio and Feist, collaborated with Beirut and Dirty Projectors, played at SXSW, played at Austin City Limits, and joined Paul Simon for a five night stretch during his residency at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Their music was also used to score the heart-wrenching 2010 film, Blue Valentine.
Songs not to miss include: “Foreground“, “Alligator (Choir Version)” (Featuring Zach Condon of Beirut, Dave Longstreth & Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors), “Shift [Alternate Version]“, “Knife“, “Fine For Now“, “All We Ask“, and “Two Weeks“.