Album preview – Grizzly Bear ‘Painted Ruins’

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We last heard Grizzly Bear’s signature combination of fascinatingly raw vocals, intricate melodies, and elaborate musicianship in 2012, with the release of their fourth album, Shields. That album was beautifully well-named, with lyrics and haunting music that explored the various imaginary facades we set up and hide behind, preventing us from fully giving our all in our relationships with people.

Now, five years later, Grizzly Bear is back with their fifth studio album, poignantly titled Painted Ruins. Released this week, advance word on the album has it that these tracks dig mercilessly into what happens next – broaching the subject of human vulnerabilities when the barriers we construct crumble and leave us unmasked, and touching upon the inner turmoil we go through when the plans we’ve carefully laid out don’t work out. Grizzly Bear released a few singles from this much-awaited album after a series of cryptic teaser videos uploaded on to their YouTube account that kept their fans guessing, and they’ve all been a delight to listen to.

The first, “Three Rings,” was released early in May, and delved into the hard-hitting reality you have to face when you understand that your one great love has moved on. Following closely on this nostalgic number was “Mourning Sound” – a marvelous blend of dulcet harmonies, blurred guitar strains, and a few twinkling notes. This unusual combination of sounds packs a significant emotional punch and brings out the core of Painted Ruins’ pensive and wistful voice. “Neighbors” is a little less flamboyant, and a little more subdued. Set to a mellow, folksy tune, this number is one of those pieces that grow on you with each repeat.

Grizzly Bear dedicated two years to putting together this intricately composed album, before surprising fans with an announcement of the album’s name and release date in a message on the 17th of May this year. Scheduled to release on the 18th of August, Painted Ruins is produced by the band’s very own Chris Taylor (who’s also the man behind the bass, the voice behind the backing vocals, and the hand behind various other instruments in the band).

Around the same time as the announcement of the release of Painted Ruins, the band also gave us more great news – Grizzly Bear’s next tour (their first in four years) is all set to begin on the 5th of October in Dublin, Ireland, and will go on to include concerts in a number of European cities (Manchester, Glasgow, Paris, London, Brussels) before returning to the US for shows in Philadelphia, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, and our very own San Francisco. If you’re a fan of their music (or if you can’t wait to listen to them for the first time), block out the 10th and 11th of December this year, because Grizzly Bear is coming to take the Warfield by storm.

And if the wait is too long, Painted Ruins is almost here to keep you company. It looks to be raw, magical, and bound to satiate our hunger for wistful, touching, makes-your-heart-heavy music.

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An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.