Mixing up a storm

Mixing up a storm
Every era has their share of music that defines the cultural essence of those times. The 60s and 70s had groovy psychedelic music and rock-n-roll, 80s had thrash and heavy metal and 90s had angst and vitriol filled punk and grunge. What does the oughties have?

I would say indie bands.

Indie bands will, in the subsequent decades, become the most unique musical identity of our times.

However, there are plenty of them. And most of them are pretty mediocre, some are good. Only every once in a while there comes along a band which is absolutely brilliant.

Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear is one such band.

Formed in 2002, the band consists of Edward Droste (vocals, keyboards, omnichord), Daniel Rossen (vocals, guitar, banjo, keyboards), Chris Taylor (bass, backing vocals) and Christopher Bear (drums, backing vocals).

The band employs traditional and electronic instruments. Their sound is dominated by the use of vocal harmonies with strains of experimental psychedelic pop and folk rock strewn around it.

Their music is kind of a mix-up, both artistically and commercially. Even though they are a very interesting band and constantly striving for innovation, they seem confused about their own abilities as musicians. That has its upside too, as their music has that sincerity of a band coming up with their debut album.

With the release of Shields: B Sides, Grizzly Bear has now released four full length albums; in between these releases, they have put out three secondary EPs and an album of remixes. While this may not seem totally out of the ordinary in the current musical zeitgeist, Grizzly Bear creates these albums with such honesty and effort that they do not seem like secondary releases at all. This is again evident with their latest release of Shields: B Sides. The album is technically a follow-up to the widely acclaimed 2012 release Shields, but it is far more than a collection of songs that got left off their previous album.

Much of the album is quintessential Grizzly Bear, as the five previously unreleased songs perfectly demonstrate the complex harmonies and diverse range of influences, including the blend of psychedelic undertones, choral rounds, and folk riffs that the band is known for. These new songs are some of the finest they have made, with Smothering Green and Listen and Wait serving as the two most memorable.

Smothering Green in particular would have stood out in any album they have previously released, but in this truncated issue, it is easily the focal point. This subdued and raw song is most noticeable among the better-produced songs on the rest of the album, especially the remixes towards the end of the record.

In the past Grizzly Bear had featured fellow indie and rock bands much like themselves, including Band of Horses and Atlas Sound, this album employs the talents of house producers Nicholas Jaar and Lindstrom, as well as the electronic band Liars. However, these artists do not contribute much to the overall album. The three songs Sleeping Ute remixed by Nicholas Jaar, Simple Answer by Liars and Gun-shy by Lindstrom finish off the album in a less than satisfactory way. Their attempts to freshen the three songs from Shields are admirable, but they do not improve on them.

Over all B Sides will keep fans satiated until the next record comes along, which shouldn’t be too long considering the band’s prolific history so far.



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