Grizzly Bear Almost Restores My Faith in Indie Rock

Grizzly bear, the band

2009 is the first year in (my) living memory that I didn’t buy even one compact disc. All the other years of my musically-engaged life, I went to record stores and kept mental lists of stuff I was interested in. The candy store (aka place where I blow my $$$) was replaced by Indy CD and Vinyl during my first year of college in Indianapolis, and when I moved to Bloomington the next year, I frequented TD’s and eventually Landlocked. When I made trips up to Chicago, I made sure to stop at Reckless to pick up stuff I couldn’t get in Indiana. I would be the girl spending 30 bucks on a UK-specific reissue of the Fall’s Hex Enduction Hour (that really happened) or requesting that Kate Bush’s long-forgotten 1982 release, The Dreaming be ordered immediately (fortunately, that only cost about $8.99). But this past year in my new Chicago life, I worked an office job, and though I’ve had more money and more access to record stores than ever before, I stopped buying music since I listen to it online all day.

But it’s not just the context of my life that has prevented me from going to buy cds. It’s that the record-store-going life is attached to the whole business of being indie, which I no longer am/aspire to be.

Bands with animal names went in one ear and out the other in recent years: Panda Bear and Grizzly Bear? Whatevs and whatevs. Saggy sweaters and disheveled skinny jeans? Whatevs and whatevs. Beach Boys influence and lofi fuzz? Whatevs and also whatever.

But then there’s this one band that, though they are everything I hate, made two good songs. Grizzly Bear–not totally whatevs. I’ve been listening to Veckatimest today–and it’s pretty, okay, really boring. Except for this one song that you maybe heard six months before I did. It’s called “Two Weeks.”

Like Peter Bjorn and John in the good days before they made this song, “Two Weeks” is cute and melodic. And yet it somehow climbs the heights near enough to the Platonic ideal of “twee anthem” to sound like a revelation.

Pitchfork’s reader survey asks which trend you are most anxious to see die. Ultimately, I picked “lofi/shitgaze” (take that, wavvvvvvves!), but I was tempted to pick the “buttoned-up, prim indie,” trend, a la St. Vincent, Grizzly Bear and Andrew Bird. However, upon further reflection, this trend is okay by me, because singing and lyrics actually matter to the songwriters in this mini-genre. One of my biggest peeves with indie is the lack of auteurism and ownership when it comes to the words of a song and singing style; perhaps that’s why I’ve turned to the glittery egoism of pop music and the poetry of hip hop in recent months. Just ask Wavvvves dude if he cares about singing or lyrics, and he will just goth vomit on you. (That’s an inside joke with Wavvves dude about how much thought he put into his song titles.)

So, yes, “Two Weeks” shows an earnest effort at singing (as opposed to mumbling soullessly about one’s ennui!), at craft, at plucking heart strings.

But wait, Grizzly Bear has one other good song. It’s on the New Moon soundtrack, and it’s called “Slow Life.” (On a side note, I wish a fan would make a video for this song from New Moon footage, or help me do that.) This song awesomely includes Victoria LeGrand, the singer of Beach House. The song starts off unsuspectingly, just some minimal guitar strumming and a simple verse. But then there’s a cathartic pause and a Cure-esque tinkle of chimes; then a derge, like a cliff is falling away beneath one’s feet; then Victoria LeGrand’s voice, all subterranean force like an underwater volcano, crashes on to the scene, and instruments drift in from a distance to twinkle darkly in the moonlight … See? It’s a really dramatic song. Kinda like the movie.

Anyway, since Grizzly Bear only has two good songs, my faith in the genre isn’t fully restored. Even Jay-Z can’t change my mind about that.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Grizzly Bear Almost Restores My Faith in Indie Rock

  1. Yo Anna, stop the indie hatred already.

    JK, although I find it more than a little sad you’ve dismissed one of the best albums of the year as really boring. This is also after you defended a plodding teen fantasy for being, well kinda boring. Could I argue that Grizzly Bear does for quiet overeducated hipster manchildren what Twilight does for it’s audience? Is that fair?
    Veckatemist creates are beautiful and engrossing world to get lost in and was a perfect summer album in a year full of would be perfect summer albums. That is to say, I love them a lot. But I have to admit, it took Two Weeks to win me over, before that I had no time for their fragiler than thou artiness. When they performed Two Weeks on Letterman, I was won over, I became a believer. And for the record, I was all up on this shit in February (http://hypocritelistener.blogspot.com/2009/02/feeling-gay.html)

    I agree that buttoned up indie can be off putting, but I have to say that the bands in that camp are frequently very dedicated musicians. I get the sense that their indieness is ephemeral to their music making. Which is pretty refreshing. I feel like the Dirty Projectors are suffering from the same prejudgements. And while I’m up here on my soapbox, let me say that the DPs are fucking incredible, album of the year.

    And what’s great about right now is that there are just as many snot nosed amateurs making noise and getting into drunken brawls, just to even things out. In the midst of all this, some real gems.

    Challenge: you make a list of the most exciting songs that have come out this year not made by anyone with aspirations of ‘indieness’ and I’ll make a list of songs only released by the indie-er than fuck elite and we’ll compare results. My feeling is they’re probably about even, but if there’s a clear winner than loser buys drinks.

  2. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Maybe I just need someone to rouse me from my indie malaise. Honestly though, I don’t think Veckatimest is boring as much as I think it is boring for me. I am bothered by the weird subjectivity in music criticism and have yet found a way to deal with it… I am going to deal with that at some later date. And beers, regardless of who wins or loses, sounds like a good plan anyway. I’ll have my non-indie playlist for you by Monday! ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s