I brought Grizzly Bear's Yellow house home from the library after a particualrly dreary day at work, layed my head back agaist the couch cushion, and prepared to give it a first listen. I had stumbled upon a video of them performing a cover of the old Crystals doo-wop hit "he hit me (and it felt like a kiss)" and subsequntly a couple a cappella tracks a la the brilliant french video series "Blogotheque" aka "The Take Away Shows". Duly impressed, I decided to give the full length a try.
Lying there in the semi-dark, I let the flighty a cappella swoons wash over me. Slowly and softly the ghostly vocals and dreamy instrumentation seeped in, and I was able to forget for some significant bit of time that I was lying there in the dark defeated by a shitty day at work.
I suppose that escapism was a feeling I hadn't felt in some time, and I was thankful to GB for weaving this dreamscape so that I might loose myself in it like a dorthy being pulled up and away from a black and white Kansas below. Later, nearing the release of thier follow-up Veckatamist, I read an article which sited one of them stating that they hoped someone might listen to one of their albums and be able to forget where they were. This, from a band who is particularly cafeful about stepping on the toes of interpreters with mission/artistic statements. Needless to say I was all the more impressed.
What makes Yellow House so exceptional is how it's found a way to seem both timeless and progressive. The way it seems to be invoking some lost art by incorporating traditional folk instruments and instrumentations into impossibly expansive layers, sometimes building to angelic crescendo, other times breaking out into a stomping and driving rhythmic force.
At times it feels as if you recognise their harmonies from the soundtrack of some golden era epic the titles softly disolving as the camera pans across a forgotten american landscape. A tall and simple church stands out boldy agaist the prairie, wandering through its halls, the echo of the choir envelopes you in an unsettling hymn for the missing.
The Knife, a song which has emmerged as the albums siren call, seems completely at home among the remainder of the album. Dispite its catchy motown aesthetic, it depicts a dark dirge of a story about a girl who just can't see her boy(the narrator) is a liar. Many of the songs bear the impression of being perhaps in that yellow house where the album was recorded: kicking up dust into the sun coming through the curtains, going to the window looking out at big blue sky, lyrics floating by like clouds, where you might impose some familiar form on them or just let them float in enriching the scene as a whole.
Like many of my favorite albums, its a carefully crafted experience. The band has an hour or so to tour you around and show you what they've found, and in Yellow House Grizzly Bear has collected some wonderful things.