The Daily Gamecock

Grizzly Bear returns to music scene with "Painted Ruins"

Three days after the release of the new Grizzly Bear album, the sun and the moon crossed paths in the sky, and the band tweeted: “The eclipse was brought to you by our new album. Hope you enjoy.” If music could be responsible for celestial phenomenons, I’d believe that Grizzly Bear’s fifth album, "Painted Ruins," did in fact bring us a solar eclipse. 

It sounds ethereal, like it came straight from outer space. It simmers with dark tones and airy vocals, conjuring up the kind of feelings that fall over you at night when you’re much too tired and conversations are diving much too deep. 

Since its start in the early 2000s, Grizzly Bear has made waves in the music industry in fits and starts — touring with Radiohead in 2008, producing the largely successful album "Veckatimest" in 2009, then going silent for a few years. 

Painted Ruins is the indie rock band’s first album since its 2012 release, "Shields," which Pitchfork described as their “most compositionally adventurous record.” Grizzly’s Bear’s new music is more contained than "Shields," but still complex. It is haunting and trippy, a little reminiscent of Pink Floyd. There are long lulls in which the synth covers you. Other times a black, pulsing undercurrent drags you through the song in a dreamlike state.

Each song plays off of the context built by the tracks around it, with riddle lyrics that imply themes of abandonment, loss and chaos. “Mourning Sound” communicates these ideas in lines such as: “let love age/and watch it burn out and die” and the repetitive chorus lyrics: “we woke with the mourning sound/it’s the sound of distant shots and passing trucks.” 

The final track “Sky Took Hold” pulls all of these feelings together, turning the ideas of war and uncertainty inward; the conflict is now internal rather than external. It is an ominous closing to the album, vibrating with haunting vocal layers that reflect questions of self-discovery that the song poses: “Who am I beneath the surface?" The layers sound like ghosts of the same person, perhaps a recognition that we all have multi-faceted personalities that sometimes contradict one another.

"Painted Ruins" will gently tug you into space and send you floating among the stars. And if you believe in the magic of music, you just might have Grizzly Bear to thank for those brief moments on Monday when the sun went black and the earth went dark.