aural reviews

MUSIC: The Gays of the Grizzly Bears. PLUS: Can a Scissor Sister Go Solo?

Grizzly Bear
Warp Records


Only the gay press ever mentions Grizzly Bear’s gay members and no wonder—they’re Brooklyn hipster bait. Gay hipsterism usually evokes over-accessorized dandies smoking sativa and freeloading off their parents’ trust, but these hardworking gents have been busy opening for the second leg of Radiohead’s North American tour, accompanying Paul Simon at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and refining their sound in side projects like Department of Eagles. Their third album, Veckatimest, shakes off easy comparisons to The Beach Boys and Animal Collective; by comparison, Grizzly Bear’s more experimental and less sporadic, respectively. Every song starts with a low strumming instrumental accompanied by Daniel Rossen’s mesmerizing vocals. As each song gradually swells into ephemeral chorals and painstakingly arrangements evoking the melancholy wonder of the wind-swept Northeastern coast, they’re kept grounded by Christopher Bear’s commanding drumming. The opening tracks reveal the album’s central theme, the lonesomeness of love—“Southern Point” warns, “In the end / You’ll never find me now… But I’ll return to you… When you return to me.” The second song, “Two Weeks,” asks a lover if they would “maybe sometimes take it easy” despite the “routine malaise.”


The album’s second half drags—a few songs meander and end without climax. “While You Wait For The Others,” the most accessible and radio-friendly of the lot, provides a needed kick after an increasingly slow pace, saying “You could beg for forgiveness / as long as you like / or just wait out the evening… but you’ll only bleed me dry.” But even though few of the songs ever go above mid-tempo, the slower masterpieces (like “Cheerleader” and “Dory” contain gorgeous textures of swirling strings, buzzing percussion, and pearldrop plucking—the trademark flourishes that earned them their “neo-psychadelic-folk” label—that make Veckatimest worth revisiting.

Del Marquis
Litter To Society
Emryonix Music, Guitsonic Music, Hidreamwave Music


A rude late-80s awakening awaits anyone looking for the funk and fun of Scissor Sisters in their guitarist Del Marquis’ solo venture. Litter To Society recombines the campiest elements of En Vogue and George Michael with deadly serious lyrics about bug chasing, societal neglect, and unrequited love. Although it’s an earnest, heartfelt attempt, the synth-heavy result sounds less radical than it thinks and is too serious by half. An irredeemable acoustic cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Believe In You” flops oddly onto the album’s uninspired electro-core. The album’s last hope, three Chris Cunningham-influenced videos (produced by Embryoroom) feature Del Marquis as Viz, a target of “the mysterious forces of hate.” But the underdeveloped idea stays trapped in a cold techno prison that’s unforgivably plain. Despite its ambition, Litter To Society offers nothing you haven’t heard done infinitely better by Del Marquis’ influences.

Rope or Bullets
The Turns


For those still hating Utah for it’s Prop 8 hijinks, Rope or BulletsThe Turns provides a dirty window into the over-achieving desperation that is Mormon life. A three-piece band with the post-punk, lo-fi feel of an after-curfew garage band, twin vocalists, Jarom Rowland and Heidi Hull, sing mad with frenzy and sorrow, their vocal styles diverging too much for cohesion—he sings while she screeches; Siouxsie and the Banshees she ain’t. Often the songs’ instrumental bridges and endings sound more interesting than their caterwauling. Although the album opens with heavy-handed teenage lyrics about depressed mothers, extra schoolwork, and temple marriage, the second-half finds its stride in “Carrion”, a slow stripped-down about the broken heart’s inability to leave home, and “Clue”, a song that correlates the board game’s characters with dysfunctional neighbors guilty of murdering individuality: “Alls I needed was a vacation / I didn’t know there was a killer… somewhere inside.”


Daniel Villarreal, an internet-addicted Mexican, lives in Austin and is working on his first novel, a book about a closeted wreck who kills and fucks his jock roommate; it’ll make for good family reading.