(Warp Records, 2006)
Originally, Grizzly Bear was the baby of solely Ed Droste, but he has been joined by several other players to make up the current configuration of the band. For some reason or another, this album by the group has landed them on Warp Records, who’re renowned for electronic musics of varying styles. And while Grizzly Bear does employ layered recording techniques, perhaps this release signals the labels intent to branch out musically. Either way, Yellow House is a sedate affair that at times recalls the Beach Boys at their most inspired. The phrase “psych pop” or “lysergic pop” will most certainly be evoked in most reviews and why should this one be any different. Again, in keeping with the current trend of folky revivalism, there’s some banjo on a few tracks as well as other traditional style acoustic instruments. “Knife” strays from that equation to evoke the Velvets in their guitar sound and emphasizes the down beat. The vocals by Droste on this track are pretty pop accessible and go along well with the ohhhs and ahhhs in the background. The recording of the album, I suppose, is part of the reason for all the commotion regarding this band and on “Plans” as well as “Colorado” the drums sound hardly like any other set that’s been recorded. Similarly, on “Central and Remote” the many voices that make up the song have been put together in an adept manner that might explain why this release is on Warp. While there are a number of groups now attempting to play old timey instruments while utilizing newer electronic techniques, like Andrew Bird, most of them fall short. I won’t say that this is a cornerstone in a new musical movement, but it’s pretty damned well put together and just short of breathtaking.
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
The Letting Go
(Drag City, 2006)
I don’t recall exactly when being folky got to be cool again, but I’m alright with it for the most part, save for Devandra Banhart. Charlie Parr, Iron and Wine and this gentleman, BPB, have been carrying on a tradition of old timey instruments with newer production and recording techniques to varying degrees. And regardless of what music one has encountered that has involved BPB before, his latest album, The Letting Go, comes across as not only more of a singular vision, but also one that is easily applicable to any and all that listen. A gloomy violin, which acts to almost recall a silent film score begins “Love Comes to Me”. The slight guitar figure compliment the voice of BPB as the hand drums add some motion to the song. This opening track sets the tone for the album and is recalled again on a few other tracks that also study the human condition. “Cold and Wet” has a pre-war blues feeling and the vivid couplet “Shoes are wet/Our skin is cold”. But this time it’s physical and emotional pain as opposed to simply the later. Finger picking isn’t lacking on this BPB outing and on “Big Friday” the listener gets a little sample along with a nice reverb soaked slide part. If you weren’t a fan before, or were a bit apprehensive, The Letting Go might be an open door to begin falling in love with good ole Billy – swear.