Grizzly Bear’s blend of four exceptionally strong individual musical contributors is likely one of the reasons it takes them years (five this time around) to build an album. Their previous record, Shields, initially foundered in Marfa, Texas and was reborn after the band had a long, hard think about continuing. With that in mind, Painted Ruins bears the hallmarks of competing internal forces: space is at a premium as each musical idea, meticulously rendered, tries to balance its position in the foreground.
While they previewed a significant chunk of the record prior to release through a string of YouTube releases, it feels a little redundant to start singling out particular songs, as the entire 48-minute package is a world-in-itself. The players in the band, and its bassist/producer Chris Taylor, have all well established their styles and, accordingly, there’s not a huge amount to differentiate Painted Ruins from Shields or Veckatimest at all. It could not sound like anyone other than the platonic Grizzly Bear you hear in your head, and while it’s only a minor criticism, it doesn’t really try to.
Droste and Rossen’s lyrical styles are both pretty oblique and non-committal, so this world is one of perpetual doubt, lingering angst, but precious little concrete evidence of what they are singing about or what ruins they inhabit. A tremendously adult album by men who value their internal bond and their privacy – who could blame them.
Words: Ian Lamont
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