With A Little Help: Grizzly Bear, Friend

By Daniel Garrett

Grizzly Bear, Friend
Warp Records Limited, 2007

The music band Grizzly Bear consists of Daniel Rossen, Ed Droste, Christopher Bear, and Chris Taylor; and the group creates dreamy atmosphere and angelic harmonies interrupted by tumultuous distortion and emphatic percussion on the song “Alligator,” harking back to the music of bands that were much discussed about twenty years ago, in an era when it seemed possible for young musicians to make a uniquely imaginative and personal music that others might like. Is this the music of solitude, contemplative or narcotic solitude? Or of youthful though alienated community? Grizzly Bear’s interpretation of the Gerry Goffin-Carole King song “He Hit Me” is delivered like the cross between a choir song and a sensitive male ballad; and the song, usually sung by a woman, in which violence is the mistaken mark of love (“he hit me and it felt like a kiss”), has an irony that may be sublime. The songs on Grizzly Bear’s Friend are performed by the band and also by other musicians who admire the group’s work, such as CSS, Band of Horses, and Atlas Sound.

The song “Little Brother” has a pristine voice, an unusual sound, with a rhythm that fluctuates, dense and melodious, then simple and light; and seems an experiment, a sound that the band Grizzly Bear has worked out for itself. Chris Taylor’s instrumental “Plans” mixes wilderness sounds and electronic sounds. Grizzly Bear’s composition “Granny Diner,” which the band performs, is obviously music that is intended to be thought about, not simply felt, a quiet music with silences, voices, strumming, and little crescendos. CSS’s handling of “Knife” is more accessible—performed with male and female voices and recorded at a higher volume, with a nice tone and rhythm one can dance to—than the music Grizzly Bear performs on Friend. Band of Horses’ version of “Plans” has a country banjo introduction, strong male harmony, and it is easy to make out the song’s words (and there is some guitar distortion before a return to solitary drumming). Atlas Sound’s interpretation of “Knife” has a back-and-forth, window-wiper rhythm, with almost creepily soft voices (that could be tribute or satire)—a version of the Grizzly Bear sound, as is Daniel Rossen’s “Deep Blue Sea.”

Daniel Garrett is a writer whose work has appeared in The African, AllAboutJazz.com, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Cinetext.Philo, Film International, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Muse-Apprentice-Guild.com, Offscreen.com, Option, PopMatters.com, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, WaxPoetics.com, and World Literature Today. He has written fiction, poetry, drama, journalism, and criticism. Daniel Garrett’s web log at Blogger.com, focused on culture and society, is called “City and Country, Boy and Man.” His e-mail address is D.Garrett.Writer@gmail.com