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Yellow House

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Album Review

On their second album (and Warp debut), Yellow House, Grizzly Bear takes a dramatic leap forward, delivering a collection of songs that sound awe-inspiringly huge and intimate at the same time. While the album is overall more polished and focused than their debut, nowhere is this (literally) clearer than in Yellow House's production. Though the artful lo-fi approach Grizzly Bear used on Horn of Plenty — which sounded like it was recorded on tapes that had been moldering away in musty cupboards, or gradually dissolving underwater — was extremely evocative in its own way, Yellow House's warmth, clarity, and symphonic depth gives Grizzly Bear's widescreen psychedelic folk-rock a timelessness that makes it seem even more dreamlike and unique. The album's structure and songwriting are much more focused, too, even though many of the tracks hover around five to six minutes long. Instead of presenting their experiments as fragments and snippets, as they did on Horn of Plenty, on Yellow House Grizzly Bear incorporates their ideas into pieces with natural, suite-like movements. "Central and Remote" moves seamlessly from fragile marimba melodies to acoustic guitar-driven verses and towering choruses. The best moments not only have a natural sound, but conjure up nature imagery as well: "Easier" opens the album with a gently exciting buildup of woodwinds, banjo, and acoustic guitar that could soundtrack the dawn of a late summer morning, while "Colorado" closes Yellow House with wide expanses of vocal harmonies and mountainous tympani. In between, there's more majestic beauty to be found, particularly on the gorgeously hazy love song "Knife," which combines lush Beach Boys harmonies with a little bit of the Velvet Underground's chugging cool. Elsewhere, "Plans" feels like a more brooding take on the High Llamas' intricate, symphonic/electronic pop, while "On a Neck, on a Spit" recalls Jim O'Rourke's freewheeling deconstruction of folk-rock and soft rock. However, these similarities feel more like allegiances than tracing over the work of these artists — Yellow House is a beautiful album in its own right, and required listening not just for fans of Horn of Plenty, but for anyone who enjoys ambitious, creative music with an emotional undercurrent.

Biography

Formed: 2002 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Grizzly Bear began as a home recording project for Boston-bred experimentalist Edward Droste, the son of an elementary school teacher, who laid the groundwork for the band's otherworldly debut album on a small hand-held tape recorder while holed up for 15 months in his Greenpoint, Brooklyn, apartment. His homespun D.I.Y. effort took on new life with the help of multi-instrumentalist Christopher Bear, a Chicago native who had worked in a diverse range of musical projects ranging from laptop electronica...
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Yellow House, Grizzly Bear
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