Bolstered by a new sense of freedom, 'Painted Ruins' is an eclectic and engaging listen.Label: Columbia/RCA
Released: 18th August 2017
An album conceived through digital collaboration from four separate residences, you might have been inclined to think the end was nigh for Grizzly Bear. An album they were never sure they were going to make, various life changes pushed them to question life in their thirties, wondering if there was a place for them to paper over the cracks that life had woven into them.
A few tracks in, and it’s clear that despite its extended, tentative germination, ‘Painted Ruins’ is in as lush fruition as any Grizzly Bear record prior. Bolstered by this new sense of freedom, it’s an eclectic and engaging listen; ‘Wasted Acres' is a comparatively sparse opener, a low-key beat that nervously questions “Are you even listening?”, before giving way to the driving rock of ‘Mourning Sound', a track that Win Butler would gladly swap his pearly king jacket for.
‘Neighbours’ celebrates the beauty in bleakness ("We watch our bodies break / Not a care in the world"), while ‘Three Rings’ makes a play to cement itself amongst their most swoonsome of singles, a plaintive and desperately romantic call to an escaping lover or friend. “Don’t you be so reasoned / Don’t you know that I can make it better?” Often unsettling, but always beautiful, its glorious crescendo offers the same emotional payoff as anything from the ‘Yellow House’ era.
A lot has changed in the world in the past five years - Droste has divorced, Taylor is a father and despite best endeavour, America as we know it has fallen into the hands of an egomaniac set to threaten the liberties we hold dearest. These themes of acclimatising to a new, scary way of living are present in abundance, but so is the strength of collaboration - Grizzly Bear has long been a band of democracy, and they complement one another in a way only well-practiced pals can, as evergreen as ‘four cypresses’ title suggests. As Droste croons “It’s chaos, but it works”, you’re tempted to believe him - a small flicker of hope that we may all get out of this alive. Jenessa Williams