Grizzly Bear: “Painted Ruins” Album Review

Written By: Filip Teovanovic


Originality: (4.0 / 5)
Vocals/Flow: (5.0 / 5)
Lyrics: (4.0 / 5)
Production: (4.0 / 5)
Average: (4.3 / 5)

The gold standard for intermezzo between albums is three years, so when ardent fans of an artist have to wait for five years, to them it feels more like five light years. But you know how all the bears need hibernation. Members of Grizzly Bear have made their indie folk audience super thrilled when they dropped their new album Painted Ruins past month. After critically acclaimed record Shields, the members of the band went through personal paradigm shifts and many of them have used the hiatus for their solo projects. Another innovation is that they left Warp Records and signed up to one of the major labels in the game, RCA.

Even though there are no extreme experimentation on the new album, they have definitely enriched their discography with a release that is idiosyncratic. Yet, they have managed to maintain their recognizable sound without being out of place (or out of tune) for a single moment. So, what did Grizzly Bear deliver with Painted Ruins? Well, we all know that psychedelic is their prowess, only now it’s supported by progressive and electronic elements that expand with every new play, revealing latent sonic layers. Plethora of layers and mesmerizing arrangements saturated with emotions converged into a special type of audio pleasure. Through play with various genres such as prog-rock, chamber pop and jazz, Grizzly Bear pulled off their best material yet.

“Three Rings” is a first standout on Painted Ruins. Five minute track is built gradually from a slow introduction to the synth climax, and although the album does not unfold with it, I see it as a great opening track. One of my personal favorites is “Mourning Sound,” a power-pop number with accentuated synth melody and prominent electro beats. When bands incorporate electronic fragments into their music, I mostly find it unattractive because I deconstruct their intention to sound trendy, but in the case of Grizzly Bear it truly makes sense. “Neighbors” offers the best lyrics on the album, so it comes as no surprise that it was released as the first single.

“Glass Hillside” is a perfect example of the influence Radiohead had on their work. Do not get discouraged by what you just read, it’s not another copycat jam. Distorted piano sound and overlap of various vocals in combination with disoriented guitar tones can leave you with an impression of disorganized song. After few plays you will find yourself enjoying in that chaos. I absolutely love when artists goad a feeling in me that I have found a place in the coordinate system of confusion. After-all, isn’t that one of the manifestations of catharsis?

“It’s chaos, but it works”, said these Brooklyn boys in a song “Four Cypresses.” And I couldn’t agree more with that line.