Sometimes things get complicated. It's easy to lose track of what you want or need and it is often difficult to realize that you're not working towards those things that are truly important, instead merely occupying your time with tedious, unimportant, and uninteresting things simply so that you don't feel quite so reclining. It's important to work, it's important to do what society expects of us, so that one may in turn receive what they expect from society - a career, a standard of living, and the ephemera that make up our life: Evian water, a Prada luggage bag, an Audio-Technica turntable, Bang & Olufsen earphones. These things aren't necessities in the standard meaning of the word because they are not necessary for life but these kinds of little extravagances are important in order to take our mind off the true emptiness of it all - a sort of Fight Club-esque indulgence wherein we fill our vacant apartment-cum-souls with IKEA furniture because what else is there to do? In moments of realization such as these, it's important to take a step back and find something that can float you away from all of that tedium and into a parallel dimension where you can be free from all of those concerns. This is what this record achieves.
Named after a small island in Dukes County, MA, Veckatimest is foremost a get-away. It's somewhere where you can run away to, a sharp contrast to the busy, business-focused life of a big city. It's sparse, it's peaceful and green, but not particularly outstanding in any specific way other than that it recalls an idyllic paradise of our youth, the parks where we used to play where we weren't disturbed and where we could pretend that there was no one left around but us, but the people that truly matter. In essence, that's all we want - for only the ones that matter to remain, our friends and family. In that spirit, we want to get away, to run to someplace else. It's funny how this escape became a biannual tradition for people, one vacation to a cottage and the other to some place moderately exotic. Yes, we often travel to places that are also densely populated, but those places are populated by strangers with whom most people try their best to not meaningfully connect and thus we all do our utmost to remain strangers. It's a temporary freedom, it's not so much a prison break as a brief walk around the yard.
And why not? The defining characteristic of Grizzly Bear's music is that the music is vaguely undefined, with sparseness that is filled in by the listener rather than force-fed to him. At the same time, the lyrics are equally indistinct, rarely conveying something specific but rather representative of a mood or an emotion. That's the principal beauty of the band but is simultaneously seen by some as their biggest flaw. It's a relationship disintegrating or coming together, or perhaps not changing at all. It's thus both everything and nothing at once.
The tendency of the band to focus on moods rather than specifics is exemplified with All We Ask. And although the music is often sparse, it still builds into glorious almost post-rock-esque crescendos with great explosions/expulsions carried by vocal harmonies courtesy of Droste. It recalls perhaps questionable choices that we have made in the past and the possible mistakes that are still to be made, but it is the mistakes that we make that make life something more than just a collection of events.
Fine for Now is further proof that Veckatimest is more than a sum of its parts, that is, more than just a sum of a number of individual beautifully tracks. I remember listening to this album after coming home from a concert of a different band and being, warm, happy, even giddy, and most of at all, at peace. I was enveloped in a sort of specific environment, of an inviting mat on a floor, a peaceful warm glow of a glowstick and those things in tandem combined to compose one of my happiest memories. This album invokes all of that and takes it further. Sure, I may have made some really serious gaffes in the past and will be certain to do so in the future as well, but I can't help but believe it's to some end, some ultimate composed purpose. It's a warm enveloping feeling that transfers you somewhere else, and there's so much more to that feeling than just the lyrics. It's the harmonics, it's the melodies, it's the way that the music is delivered.
Grizzly Bear is among the relatively few bands that I have found completely independently, and I am so glad that I had found them in that way. Why is that significant? It's because although a person is often happy to adopt what others show him; he still needs to feel a sense of definition, a sense of more than belonging but perhaps instead a misplaced sense of ownership. The music conveys a feeling instead of something specific; it is regret, it's longing, it's self-blame.
The same whimsicality continues on one of the most beautiful and one of my favourite tracks on the record. The final verse consists of a repeated "They go, we go, I want you to know, what I did, I did," feels immensely meaningful along with the delivery and the looping, the spiralling quality of the music which makes it at once both gorgeous and powerful. The thing about Grizzly Bear's tracks is that they work as singles, yes, but are so much more powerful as part of a greater whole.
That same feeling carries and sweeps the listener into the next track which is another highlight. It's a fantastic song that stands out and then the album continues into a sort of intermezzo that separates the album into a final third...
While You Wait for the Others is another impressive track and is certainly amongst their best. It's delivered in a powerful, raw way and combined with a back vocal and a gentle, yet forceful lead makes something that is yet another stand-out on an album full of them.
Finally, the album ends on a high note. Foreground was the first track I had ever heard by the band and it is a quiet, detached finale to an album that flows like a stream, that varies from full-on force to quiet resignation, remaining impressive throughout.
In sum, Veckatimest is a landmark record that showcases the best of what has been hidden by the umbrella of indie rock. Grizzly Bear delivers something undefined yet polished, something beautiful yet rough, something deeply meaningful yet ephemeral. This is an album of contradictions and yet it is an album of unbelievable, almost indescribable beauty.