Five years since their last release, Grizzly Bear return with Painted Ruins, released August 18, 2017. More tightly woven musically than any previous release, the band retains their distinct sound while knitting together everything you love about them while improving upon all the things you didn’t.
2012’s Shields easily gave way to feelings that Grizzly Bear had run its course, but Painted Ruins comes across sounding more natural and evolved. The long break has treated the members well. The album is full of classic Grizzly Bear; tempo changes, clunky guitar, and simple lyrics that create paths amidst the watery reverb, but the band isn’t simply forcing out another Grizzly Bear album, there is a prominent sense of growth from Shields. More emphasis on synth lines and straight forward drum beats mesh together with experimental sounds and epic landscapes that the band is so familiar with. Painted Ruins sounds like 2017, its not trying to capture the past by any means.
Painted Ruins fades in slowly with its first track “Wasted Acres”, strong, soft, fluid. The single “Mourning Sound” follows almost confusing the listener at first with the punching drum beat. The crunchy and eventually chaotic “Three Rings” over lays two separate drum beats as the band haunts the track with their signature high pitched harmonies and noisy ambience. “Aquarian” cuts right through the album with intensive drumming, and hard organ-filtered guitar chords slashing through the reverb, only to noisily slow and clean itself up a bit. “Glass Hillside” reminds the listener of a more polished track from Horn of Plenty, until it breaks into a psychedelic groove, perfectly mixed and ear catching. The album finishes with “Sky Took Hold” drenched in bassy synth and a epic distorted guitars.
The intricacies of Painted Ruins requires multiple listens, the noisy depths will reveal many secret pools spilling over into each other, endless and choppy. Will this be the last Grizzly Bear album? I do not know, and I’m fairly certain the band doesn’t know either.