Tom Hines for Grizzly Bear
The virtuosic indie-rock quartet Grizzly Bear has returned
from a five-year hiatus with the most accomplished, densely
layered, and instantly accessible work of its career.
On “Painted Ruins,” the group’s fifth album and first project
since 2012’s “Shields,” the band moves further from the
sprawling, steady instrumentation of its past, and
toward an inventive synthesis of influences from ’60s
psychedelia and ’70s-era progressive rock.
Founded in the early 2000s in Brooklyn as a lo-fi solo project by
singer Ed Droste, Grizzly Bear has evolved drastically over
the course of its five LPs.
The band’s early era was defined by the moving and
meandering work of its idiosyncratic albums “Yellow
House” and “Veckatimest,” both of which the group compiled to
soundtrack Derek Cianfrance’s devastating 2011 film
With “Painted Ruins,” Grizzly Bear has completed
its transformation from an indie anomaly that dealt in
subtlety, to one of the most inspired and versatile rock
bands in music.
The new album teems with shape-shifting production that makes for
a rewarding headphone listen, and its dynamic approach to
songwriting at times recalls the late work of The Beatles, in
its more intricate and studio-focused era.
“Painted Ruins” commences with a pulsating synth, a musical
signature that courses throughout the album. Daniel Rossen, one
of the band’s two lead singers, is the first up to bat with
“Wasted Acres,” a peculiar and inviting ode to riding
a DRX-250 motorcycle through an open field, and
a cryptic symbol of the group’s adapting relationship
with its audience.
“Were you even listening? / Were you riding with me? / Were you
even listening, DRX-250?” Rossen inquires of his bike and,
seemingly, the fans the group may have lost through its
Of the album’s four stellar singles, “Mourning Sound” epitomizes
the band’s strengths and diverse talents. Here Droste and
Rossen trade verses, as the former sings plaintively of lost
love and the latter poetically of walking to the “mourning
sound” of “distant shots and passing trucks.”
Grounded in propulsive guitar and laced with sharp
melodies, the song is a standout track on a highlight-filled
At an intimate New York listening session for “Painted Ruins”
this week, Grizzly Bear’s four members stood in a single-file
line across a small stage as they briefly introduced the
album — the same horizontal, unified formation that the musically
egalitarian band always performs in.
As I listened to the album for the first time in its entirety
that night, I was struck most by the cataclysmic build-up of the
song “Aquarian,” the acrobatic, “Sgt. Peppers”-esque transitions
of “Glass Hillside,” and the haunting melodies of “Neighbors,”
another great single.
Over 11 tracks, “Painted Ruins” manages to meld wildly
divergent styles into a coherent whole, and though it loses a bit
of momentum on the relatively lackluster, penultimate
song “Systole,” the album is the most well-wrought work
in the band’s catalog, and definitely one of the finest in music
Give it a listen below, or purchase it