Since Grizzly Bear started releasing albums in 2004, they never let more than three years pass between new releases, dropping follow-ups in ‘06, ‘09, and ‘12. But since the release of Shields, we’ve gone nearly five years without a new Grizzly Bear album. That’ll thankfully change on August 18th, when the band’s fifth album, Painted Ruins, will finally drop.
Two weeks ago, the Brooklyn-based band shared album cut “Three Rings,” a hell of a song that sounds like it could fit right in on Radiohead’s In Rainbows, what with its meandering structure, polyrhythmic beat, and very Colin Greenwood-esque bassline. It’s one of the weirdest, proggiest songs in Grizzly Bear’s repertoire, rivaled only by Shields’ chaotic opening track, “Sleeping Ute.”
The follow-up, “Mourning Sound,” has been shared today, and though it’s a little more straightforward than its predecessor, it still offers clues that Painted Ruins will mark quite a departure from the band’s sound a half-decade prior. This track is more new wave than it is prog, outfitted with a rich bed of synths and driving basslines and drums, but Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen’s guitars move around untethered to the rest of the song, one ripping a jagged electric part and the other a gently strumming an acoustic.
Despite their differences, both Painted Ruins tracks bear little resemblance to the folky psychedelic pop that Grizzly Bear broke out with on Yellow House and Veckatimest around ten years ago. Back then, they were very much of the Animal Collective/Dirty Projectors/The National scene, all of which were bands using relatively old sounds and recording techniques to new ends. But just as Animal Collective have moved away from campfire folk songs to electro-psychedelia, Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth went the solo glitch-tronica route on his most recent album, and The National seem like they’ll be taking some left turns of their own on their upcoming album, Grizzly Bear seems to be following suit and distancing themselves from the scene that birthed them.
Neither “Three Rings” and “Mourning Sound” represent a half-measure, as the band leans fully into a meatier, more electrified sound on both, and if they can keep that up for the rest of the album, their transformation will be a welcomed one.