Grizzly Bear Credit: Tom Hines

For Grizzly Bear’s first album in five years, Painted Ruins, the band broke from its independent roots to join forces with major label RCA. Produced by bassist Chris Taylor, the new music has a glossier surface finish than ever, and the band hasn’t simplified its intricate style. In fact, the tension between the world-weary lyrics of Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen, and (for the first time) Taylor and the churning grooves, ethereal harmonies, and sparkling melodies of the music does nothing to reduce life’s complexities into digestible bites. The narratives tend toward the cryptic; there’s a pervading sense of darkness in otherwise ebullient tunes such as “Mourning Sound,” which plays with the titular homonym and contrasts hope for the future with dismal, violent imagery in lines like “We walked with the morning sound / It’s the sound of distant shots / And passing trucks.” “Four Cypresses” also intimates a fraught environment, but other songs reflect on more domestic conflicts. The stuttering “Three Rings” matches ambiguous lyrics that seem to yearn for some kind of romantic detente with disjointed drumming that echoes the narrator’s internal tension. I was initially put off by the slickness of Taylor’s production, but repeated spins have revealed the depth of the band’s performances. The fuzzy drive of Taylor’s nimble bass lines provide muscular counterbalance to the group’s aerated melodies—which though less direct than on previous recordings have lingered on and insinuated themselves into my brain as effectively as anything else Grizzly Bear has done.   v

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