Grizzly Bear’s new album ‘Painted Ruins’ is out now (stream, review, Colbert video)
The first single released from Painted Ruins was "Three Rings," the most subdued lead single Grizzly Bear have put out since their mainstream breakthrough. 2009's career-altering Veckatimest was led by "Two Weeks," still the band's signature song, and its 2012 followup Shields was led by "Sleeping Ute," a blast of a lead single that showed off a newfound knack for proggy guitar workouts. It initially felt underwhelming that "Three Rings" would be the first new Grizzly Bear music we'd hear in five years, but it turns out that song set the tone for Painted Ruins perfectly.
As "Three Rings" may have had you thinking, Painted Ruins is the band's most subdued album since Yellow House. There's nothing even remotely like the bouncy pop of "Two Weeks" on it, no song that suggests Painted Ruins will elevate Grizzly Bear to new levels of fame -- but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The more mellow mood set by "Three Rings" leaves you unprepared for when Painted Ruins does let its freak flag fly, making those moments all the more thrilling.
The most thrilling of them all is "Losing All Sense," a jittery uptempo song that doesn't resemble much else in Grizzly Bear's discography and stands out as one of their more intriguing songs to date. They also sound pretty lively on "Mourning Sound" and "Neighbors," both of which did drop as pre-release singles later on. The former is about as driving as Grizzly Bear ever get, and the latter is perhaps the most classic-sounding Grizzly Bear song on Painted Ruins. With Christopher Bear's off-kilter drumming, Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen's lush, overlapping voices, and the band's ability to change pace at the drop of a hat, "Neighbors" puts you into the kind of trance that no band can seem to put you in quite like Grizzly Bear.
One of the album's more remarkable traits is how dedicated it remains to psychedelia. Painted Ruins reminds you that Grizzly Bear are masters of it, years after the bandwagon jumpers moved on to other sounds. "Glass Hillside" is the kind of creepily trippy folk song they do so well. "Aquarian" swirls like a kaleidoscope. Grizzly Bear are often grouped in with bands that studied at the school of Brian Wilson, but "Cut-out" interjects its psych-pop parts with intricate instrumentals like a Moody Blues record. It's no small feat in 2017 for a four-piece rock band to make psychedelic music that doesn't sound retro, especially when it sounds as gorgeous and complex as Painted Ruins does.
It's tempting to try to fit Painted Ruins in with some sort of narrative, the most frequently-used one being that it comes in a year full of long-awaited returns from '00s-era indie bands like Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Wolf Parade, Broken Social Scene, Feist, The National, Fleet Foxes, and Dirty Projectors. But even in that context, Painted Ruins feels like an outlier. Most of those bands are either attempting comebacks of their classic sounds or making sharp left turns, and Grizzly Bear aren't really doing either of those things. Painted Ruins immerses you in the unique world that Grizzly Bear have created over the years without ever really looking outside. It feels more for longtime fans than newcomers right now, but it also feels like it'll maintain longevity as years pass, the gaps between albums blur, and the "narrative" of the album in the context of 2017 fades into a distant memory.
Painted Ruins is out now on RCA. Stream it in full below.
Grizzly Bear also played "Mourning Sound" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday night. Watch that below too: