Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Album reviews - Grizzly Bear and Pocket Promise

Grizzly Bear
(Warp Records)

IN 2004 Grizzly Bear - then largely the solo project of Ed Droste - released the hypnotic Horn Of Plenty, an atmospheric record dubbed “anti-folk” in some quarters. Whatever about that baffling label, in 2006 Grizzly Bear released Yellow House, a more complete offering, featuring a full band for the first time.
The journey this quartet have come over the release of these albums is interesting, and relevant to the album. This third offering from Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest, was released earlier in the summer but is already shaping up to be one of the finest of the year.
Veckatimest is definitely the group’s most complete offering in their short career. The band have said they feel it is their most accessible, but that is a debatable point. This is an album that will take weeks to sink in, but as it does, it will insert claws and refuse to be put to the back of the pile.
Opener Southern Point feels like a folk song, but is suffused with a polka beat, driving it forward. Interestingly the band are one of the few non-electronic outfits signed to Warp, but, for all their folk-indie leanings, there is an electro feel to some of the songs on this.
Fleet Foxes comparisons are inevitable, if a little lazy; although likely to be this year’s best release, as that self-titled debut was last year, there is more complexity here, an element of darkness that does not feature on Fleet Foxes pastoral folk offering.
However, the cheery, uplifting doo-wah of clear album highlight Two Weeks feels like it could have made it onto Fleet Foxes album, if not a Beach Boys one. The epic All We Ask features an opening spine-tingling central guitar part that Jeff Buckley would have been proud of, while the song itself goes through at least three distinct phases, rising and falling through thumping bass, military drums and soaring vocals.
This is an example of the genre-mixing, experimental rock that Grizzly Bear excel at and shows why this band are Radiohead’s favourites.
Listen to While You Wait For The Others and fail to be impressed, the band coming together sporadically for glorious multi-vocal choruses.

Pocket Promise
I’ve Been Here For Ages
(Stop Go Music Limited)

THERE IS so much good music coming out of the North of this country that, at last, the notion that the anaemic Snow Patrol are the sole ambassadors for Northern Ireland should be counteracted.
Hard rock outfit And So I Watch You From Afar have already impressed this year, while this debut from the hugely promising (and aptly titled) Pocket Promise appears ready to add to the strength in depth among the booming scene in Belfast and beyond.
Where And So I Watch... are all screeching guitars and a Rage-esque wall of sound, Pocket Promise have produced an album full of lush instrumentation, indie-rock with an intelligent bent. The band released a double A-side before the album came out and one half of that single opens this album, the excellent, Radiohead influenced If Not The Tide Will Change.
Surprisingly the other half of that single is one of the lower points of the album, Talking Over Talking just a bit too standard soft-core guitar rock for us.
However, if this is a low point - there are many high points, an impressive level of depth, melody and heartfelt harmony on several of the songs.
The lush, sweeping strings of Deja Vu is preceded by the seven minute epic Sorry, while the skiffle lullaby beat of Inside Out will drag you under its spell.
There is an energy prevalent throughout all the songs on this offering, which at a little under 50 minutes, feels a little short.
However, if this album gets heard by the right people, you will find it difficult to wander past a radio without Pocket Promise’s indie rock blasting at you.

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