GRIZZLY BEAR — ‘Painted Ruins’
THE GOOD: Brooklyn indie rock outfit Grizzly Bear returns with its fifth album (and first in five years).
THE BAD: Just like the band’s previous sets, “Ruins” won’t grab hold immediately. You must give the record a few spins, pick it apart slowly and notice all its nuances gradually. It’s not “bad” — it just takes a little work.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Bassist Chris Taylor once again handles production duties as subtle changes occur on “Ruins” with the guys continuing their logical progression. The beats are more pronounced this time, the melodies bolder. Arrangements still bring together layers of cinematic sound with changes in tempo; that combination of gentler indie pop and prog-rock bombast stays intact.
Frontman Ed Droste guides the tunes (sometimes gentle, sometimes soaring) over backdrops that either seamlessly glide or boldly march forward. Keyboard flourishes add splashy bits of color at times combine with sharp guitars to bring about all-encompassing, multi-dimensional settings. Honestly, Grizzly Bear has never made an album this INVITING before. It’s gorgeous stuff.
BUY IT?: Sure.
THE DEARS — ‘Times Infinity Volume Two’
THE GOOD: Canadian indie rockers the Dears come back with their seventh album.
THE BAD: High concept? A SEQUEL? Not necessarily.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Recorded at the same time as its predecessor (“Volume One” came out in 2015), “TIV2” simply is another Dears collection on its surface. The husband-and-wife team of vocalist/guitarist Murray Lightburn and keyboardist/vocalist Natalia Yanchak leads its crew and churns out a smart mix of dark, lyrical imagery and delicate, haunting melodies. It’s damn near impossible to avoid comparisons to the Smiths. Echoes of groups such as Elbow and Stars also are not far behind.
Whether you recall “Volume One” or never even heard it is irrelevant. “Volume Two” is exquisite, stirring and soulful all on its own. From the guitar pop bliss slathered over “Of Fisticuffs” to the Baroque strains and delicate strings coloring “I’m Sorry That I Wished You Were Dead” to the cloudy gray enveloping the somber “End of Tour,” the new record is an emotional tour-de-force — as expected.
BUY IT?: Yep.
THE NATIONAL — ‘Sleep Well Beas’
THE GOOD: Ohio indie rockers the National return with a sprawling seventh album.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: At its core, “Beast” is standard National fare. Frontman Matt Berninger wraps all the distinct melodies in his warm baritone. The moody, guitar-soaked backdrops remain steady, always drenched in shadows and fog.
Yet, this time, the guys allowed themselves the luxury of working within their own studio for some of the sessions and experimenting. Different sounds weave their way into the murky tapestry. The occasional drum loop or synth burst adds color. Some understated and intimate orchestral arrangements bring a much-appreciated warmth. Tempos and emotions run the gamut from frazzled and rollicking (“Turtleneck”) to tempered and introspective (“Dark Side of the Gym”).
Twelve tracks clock in at almost an hour, but the album never feels stagnant or bloated. The band keeps the proceedings unpredictable, and the writing as always is very assured. “Beast” ends up another gem in an already accomplished catalog.
BUY IT?: Definitely.