The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: Grizzly Bear – ‘Painted Ruins’ (RCA)

  • 6/10
    - 6/10


‘Painted Ruins’, Grizzly Bear’s first album since 2012, contains many of the same sounds but falls slightly short of the glories of ‘Veckatimest’ and ‘Shields’.

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Grizzly Bear come back at us with their fifth album Painted Ruins. After an inordinately long five years since the release of their last album Shields, this art-rock four-piece have returned into the light with promises of grooves and wistful sounds.

‘Wasted Acres’ serves as a moody haze, slow groove intro to Painted Ruins. Ed Droste’s vocals and vague-as-ever lyrics layer nicely over this trip-hop opener; the track is an easily digested affair and fades out effortlessly paving way for ‘Mourning Sound’, a notable song that immediately greets the listener with a quick tempo and a lively thump beat almost like a kick-start to the album. Glistened with glitch-like melodies and sharp chords that slice through the bass and drive this song delivers the familiar atmosphere you would expect from this psychedelic-pop band.

The steady electronic ‘beep’ at the beginning of ‘Four Cypresses’ accompanied by stuttering drum rolls accounts for, on the surface, a cluttered song. Though stick with it, the slow rise swells, dreamy chimes and the ironic lyrics “it’s chaos but it works” brings this song right around to a flowing dream. But the song is quick to burst that bubble and then itself bursts into a trance of swift drums and abstract sounds. After just over a minute of this intense, powerful sound, the song returns to a calm state and we are eased to the end of this song with soft swells and harmonies. It is chaos, but it does have a certain order.

‘Three Rings’ is a woozy affair, with bassist Chris Taylor presents a heavy drive slipping underneath heavenly progressions and slow but all-around powerful vocals that hold a certain non-specific yearning, highlighted especially on the lyrics “Don’t you ever leave me”. This song is earnest and offers a more open-end approach to the album.

A particular stand out on Painted Ruins is ‘Losing All Sense’, simply because of how different it sounds – though this is necessarily not a bad thing, it allows the album to take a breather. This is a song with more swing as Droste’s voice on this track is thriving, injecting more life into ‘Painted Ruins’, alongside the jaunty synth and grooving bass. The quick and dizzying sound of ‘Aquarian’ lays down a strange fairground vibe. The repeated vocals of Daniel Rossen, incanting “Never reach the end”, charms the song to a slower pace.

This album draws to a close with slower, more mellifluous songs such as ‘Glass Hillside’, ‘Neighbors’, ‘Systole’ and ‘Sky Took Hold’. These songs in themselves are all good but do not add that much more to this album, acting as ballast where there should be drama. That is not to say that they do not belong on Painted Ruins, a very singular and quite beautiful effort, but there is nothing further that stands out and as a result of this leaves it with nowhere else to go. (6/10) (Rebecca Corbett)

Listen to Painted Ruins here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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