On “Two Weeks,” the solid first single from Grizzly Bear’s masterful second full-length, Veckatimest, vocalist Ed Droste soars in a delicate falsetto that rips to shreds all of that fancy Broadway/metal-head caterwauling of Adam Lambert and the like. It’s compelling and vigorously dynamic. Nice to hear a queer voice not trying so hard to please the masses (no jazz hands here). Droste is pleasing himself. The band is making actual art with no commercial gain embedded in the execution (wow, what a refreshing concept).
“Cheerleader” is a jaunty and slightly spooky dreamscape of a song. You could just see the destructive Clockwork Orange bowler-hat gang happily waltzing to the song’s intense marching drums. But with Droste’s tender coo caressed by loops of a female chorus, the song gets way more complex. When the bandmates join in — harmonizing as perfect as the brothers Wilson — it’s icing on the cake. Though fragmented and art-school abstract, the lyrics (on this track and the rest) are still utterly relatable.
“Mention a name, we all know/ Appear tame, it shows/ Please don’t feign, the ropes/ Always the same, I know.”
The last three tracks just take my breath away. For some reason I see “While You Wait for the Others,” “I Live with You” and “Foreground” as one big fucking epic song. “I Live With You” is the one getting all of the attention right now. It has that fiery vigour of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s a rougher track, less perfect (thank God) than Queen’s masterwork but it’s terrific. The cathartic wipeout of crashing Thin White Duke guitars is a solid intro for the quiet after the rainstorm that is “Foreground.”
“Something about this might take all evening/ I’ll just be cleaning/ This is the foreground/ This is the foreground.”
The whole album tickles the senses like butterfly kisses. A female chorus emerges like a warm summer wind, drums happily tip tap along and piano keys sound as if a freckled, pouty five-year-old girl is playing them. But it’s not a touch twee… not at all. With repeated listens, darkness emerges within the production. Veckatimest is so epic it hurts. It’s as if the intense grandness of, say, Richard Strauss’s Last Four Songs gets a cerebral redo by The Smiths.