Grizzly Bear - Yellow House
Reviewed by Andreas on 26th September 2006
Imagine the following: It's a clear and sunny, yet chilly, autumn day. You put your scarf and coat on and go out in the sunshine. You can see your breath as puffs of smoke as you skip through those ruffling leaves. What album would you play whilst doing this? Well, you should by all rights be playing "Yellow House" by Grizzly Bear. This is the NYC-based group's second album, and it is warm, delightful and quite seriously odd. It is full of strange vocal harmonies, uncommon orchestrations and a really old waltz number that have been rescued from the murky depths of forgotten pasts.
"Marla", the aforementioned waltz, was written by vocalist/songwriter Edward Droste's aunt or somesuch relative a whooping 70-odd years ago. It is crooked, dark and so elegant it could be used in one of those really moody car adverts. Not one of those tacky ones though, but one of those cinematic things. In short, if songs were cars, it'd be a really expensive and nice one (I was going to say Lexus, but I know next to nothing about cars). Strings and piano give added layers where needed, and the murmured vocals make for a captivating trip back in time.
Mostly, Grizzly Bear convey moods rather than just songs. Whilst listening to the album, it gets hard to pick up where one song ends and the next one begins. This doesn't do any harm though, as the sounds goes up, down and gets a bit swirly. As tracks like opener "Easier" and following song "Lullabye" play out, the latter with its "chin up, cheer up" second section, it becomes obvious that this is an album of joy rather than anything else. That is not to say that there's not a sense of gloom present. "Knife" seems to be about lies and deceit, and still manages to have a tender pop thing going.
"Yellow House" show a band that is growing from a solo-project-type affair into a more collectively coordinated unit. The band's previous release, debut album Horn of Plenty, was mostly singer Droste's solo record. This album shows the sounds of a group of people knowing exactly what the others think, and knowing how to play up to that. Particularly album closer "Colorado" displays what kind of effect such things can have to great effect. On "On a Neck, On a Spit", the Grizzlys appear almost as a ghostly campfire session. Harmonies swirl and rise whilst the mood remains delightfully warm.
As for negative points? There aren't any real low points on the record. That is, if you like the quirky style of folky, acoustic songs that Grizzly Bear offer. The only negative would perhaps be that it gets a bit too sweet after ten consecutive listens.
Should sweet melodies, cosy choruses, pianos, banjos and whispered vocal harmonies be your cup of tea you might have found your album of the year in "Yellow House". For this reviewer, Grizzly Bear are definitely amongst the (somewhat fictitious) top ten of 2006 already.
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