It would be hard to muster more anticipation, at least in the indie-rock world, than that which preceded the release of Grizzly Bear's third album,
, a couple of weeks ago. Proclaimed by some as the American heir to Radiohead, which took the Bear on tour as an opening act, the Brooklyn quartet has spent the three years between albums expanding its already not-inconsiderable sound. Monday night at the Trocadero, the songs seemed to push against the boundaries of the room, swaddling the sold-out crowd in ghostly harmonies and pulsing beats.
Although lead vocals are performed exclusively by guitarists Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, the band took an egalitarian approach, lining up all four members, including bassist Chris Taylor and drummer Christopher Bear, against the edge of the stage. As well they ought, since Bear's cascading rhythms and, especially, Taylor's supple, swooping bass lines are often the only things tethering the songs to earth.
Droste's and Rossen's voices are distinctive - Rossen's is a delicate quaver, Droste's a swooning croon - but both favor the upper end of their vocal range. When they harmonized, and particularly when Bear and Taylor added their own falsettos to the mix, the effect was both comforting and stifling, like being smothered in gauze.
Veckatimest takes its name from an uninhabited island off Cape Cod, and its songs languish in a kind of blissful isolation. "Two Weeks," the sunny first single from Veckatimest, aimed for the reverb-drenched reverie of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, with Victoria Legrand of the like-minded duo Beach House adding another layer to a towering palace of sound. But on "Fine for Now" and "Southern Point," the massed harmonies were closer to the soft-headed mush of Crosby, Stills and Nash, despite the latter song's clattering drum part (itself heavily reminiscent of Radiohead's "15 Step").
Grizzly Bear's songs are nothing if not intricately structured, cramming a symphony's worth of motifs into a four-minute stretch, but they're so drenched in atmosphere that they don't always resolve into a solid shape. On "I Live With You," the overload meshed with the song's lyrical context, as Drossen sang "they are trying to keep us apart" while Taylor filled his microphone with radio static. But at other times, it just seemed like a stylistic tic, a way of making the songs seem big without actually increasing their scope.