Grizzly Bear: Painted Ruins (RCA) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear

Painted Ruins


Aug 16, 2017 Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear Bookmark and Share

David Lynch has suggested that his work, which often eschews narrative sense, offers more to the viewer than they initially realize. What seems inscrutable may actually be made sense of deep within one’s brain, like the interpretation of a dream. Much of Grizzly Bear‘s recorded output invites a similar interpretation, and their fifth LP, Painted Ruins, is no different. This template is set on opener “Wasted Acres,” as vocalists Daniel Rossen and Ed Droste swap perspectives over a slow-motion chamber sway, slyly hinting at perfidy as Rossen quixotically croons, “Trusted friend tell me what you need/Why would you stay here?,” before Droste provides the catatonic rejoinder, “Were you riding with me?/Were you even listening?/TRX 250,” over a metronomic rhythmic pulse courtesy of drummer Christopher Bear and bassist Chris Taylor.

Yet, as on much of Painted Ruins, these are clues to an overriding puzzle, and even a gestalt. Grizzly Bear often burrow themselves into a part of your subconscious that you don’t fully understand. But listening to them having metamorphosed into such a great band over the course of five albums has been nothing short of a revelation, and this album hits at some truly dark recesses previously uncharted by the band. “Mourning Song” is one of the heaviest moments of the their oeuvre, the torque-driven instrumentation undergirding the heavily anomic fever-dream recollection, “We walked with the morning sound/It’s the sound of distant shots and passing trucks,” while the winnowing, arpeggiated “Three Rings” hints at a relationship disintegrating, as Droste entreats, “Don’t you know that I can make it better?/Don’t you ever leave me.” Mortality creeps overtly into the eerily shimmering “Neighbors,” as Droste sings the devastating couplet, “Face to face/We’ll watch our bodies break,” with dignified resignation.

Sonically this is Grizzly Bear’s most “band” sounding album to date, remarkable considering that they’re now largely scattered beyond their former home base in Brooklyn. Yet the album is the sound of a band cohering as never before with a formidable swagger. Sonic reference points remain, including the vertiginous sway of Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle, the honeyed harmonies of The Beach Boys’ Smile, and the baroque Technicolor palette of Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs.

But ultimately, Grizzly Bear have crafted their own insulated universe, replete with entropy, but with a surfeit of confidence in the sonic home they’ve honed for over a decade now. “It’s chaos, but it works,” Rossen suggests on the portentous, marching-band chug of “Four Cypresses.” And that chaos works at a beguiling level throughout the superb Painted Ruins, an album that captures the fear, confusion, and wonderment of what it’s like to be alive in 2017. (

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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