The Brooklynite's solo EP is a fiercely ambitious effort
When Marcus Mumford lies in bed late at night, Vicks VapoRub smeared across his chest, and listens to the music of [a]Grizzly Bear[/a], he must quietly weep. For a few years now, the Brooklyn chamber-folk outfit have summoned up grand vistas of the pastoral sublime, while the Mumfords et al make do with taking the funicular, all kitchen-sink arrangements and pasty-lad emoting.
Well, look away now Marcus, because the new EP from Grizzly Bear’s [a]Daniel Rossen[/a] is a truly grandiose effort. Made up of material originally intended for the next Grizzly Bear record, itself due later this year, ‘Silent Hour/Golden Mile’ was reportedly hatched in response to the directionlessness that swallowed the group after touring 2009 album ‘Veckatimest’.
What can we say, except that it clearly worked? “[i]With your head full of stars that crowd all you see, sing for me/With your mouth full of stones grinding your teeth, speak for me[/i]”, croons Rossen, in his guarded sigh, on ‘Up On High’. He uses his crystal diction with an acoustic to pick a delicate path through a typically snaking arrangement, all silvery strings and epic drum hits like faraway thunder.
The bittersweet pop arrangement and fallen-angel falsettos of ‘Silent Song’ sound like middle-period Elliott Smith, a motif Rossen revisits on ‘Golden Mile’’s glass half-empty waltz, with lonesome touches of slide guitar seemingly half-inched off George Harrison.
‘Saint Nothing’ is an elegant ballad that recalls Paul McCartney at his most artily ambitious; it’s a beautiful song that reminds you why folk as revered as Paul Simon and Jonny Greenwood are so smitten with this guy. Rossen is a master craftsman – and one of the best songwriters in modern rock – and with ‘Silent Hour/Golden Mile’ he’s set the bar tantalisingly high for Grizzly Bear’s return.