Rating: * * * *
It's unlikely New York band Grizzly Bear have heard of Split Enz. But on the unruly ride of opener Southern Point, with its breathless ups and downs, singer and songwriter Ed Droste's voice takes on a near-demented intensity reminiscent of Tim Finn's early days in the Enz. There is much of that New Zealand band's theatricality about Grizzly Bear too, but without the makeup and funny costumes.
Veckatimest - named after a tiny, uninhabited island near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where parts of the album were recorded - is more assured and comprehensive than the band's 2006 release Yellow House. It was beautifully fragile but often veered more towards the airy fairy than the finely crafted psychedelic folk rock that they produce here.
It's on a song like Two Weeks that Grizzly Bear wield their songwriting power, bringing together intricate multi-part vocal harmonies (sung like a bunch of adolescent school boys), beats that lure and tease, and a simple repetitive keyboard chord. It's one of the most adorable songs of the year. And there's something ever so beauty school drop-out gorgeous about Cheerleader, a wistful mid-album ditty, with gently plucked strings, and choir boy harmonies to rival those in Two Weeks.
Then there are the seemingly never-ending subtleties that reveal themselves on repeat listens, be it a wash of what sounds like dulcet harp on Ready, Able, or the distant rasp and crash of cymbals on Fine For Now, that make the songs increasingly more epic with every play.
It can be meancing too, like the agitating, lo-fi guitar chug of Ready, Able, which is off-set by Droste's romantic serenade and other whimsical instrumentation; and I Live With You is bludgeoning and abrasive, like a wurlitzer organ being smashed to pieces with a sledgehammer as fireworks go off in celebration.
Veckatimest is a charming, beautifully odd and intriguing album that gets better every time you listen to it. It makes you wonder, and a little bit excited, where they might go next.