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Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest (Album Review)

And so this year’s nominees for the Fleet Foxes slot – a bit weird, a bit folky, but with crossover potential – bring their third album to the public. Fleet Foxes isn’t really a fair comparison: there’s less of the “Hello trees! Hello flowers!” about Grizzly Bear, who sound more focused, less ethereal. But there are similarities: both bands look to marry an American folk tradition to the audible influence of the Beach Boys. With Grizzly Bear, it’s not just in yearning, falsetto topline melodies and rich harmonies, but also in the “fat bass” that characterised Brian Wilson’s heyday – the Beach Boys influence runs through tracks such as Cheerleader, anchoring the group within a tradition of experimental American pop. That last word is the key one, though: this is never hard work, and never feels self-indulgent. The musical emphasis subtly shifts, from track to track and within tracks – witness opener Southern Point’s transition from swinging, Tim Buckleyesque folk-jazz to something altogether more urgent – to create something that feels rather greater than the sum of its parts.