For those of us who grew up listening to our parents’ Bob Dylan and Nick Drake CDs, it’s a great time to be a music fan. Artists such as Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective, and the rest of the freak/neo-folk canon have revived the genre we spent so many lazy weekend afternoons absorbing in wide-eyed wonderment. Among this new crop is Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear. Originally the pet project of Edward Droste, the home-recorded demos that would make up Horn of Plenty eventually became a more polished collaboration between Droste and Christopher Bear. (The band has since added two members; Chris Taylor and Dan Rossen.) Fusing found sounds, dreamy vocals and hushed instrumentals, Horn of Plenty is a hazy, intoxicating debut that envelops you in its warmth.
Richly textured, and layered with subtle nuances, Horn of Plenty rewards the listener who is patient enough to forge through its vast expanses. With vocals sounding like they were recorded at the bottom of an ocean, opener “Deep Sea Diver” drifts along before it culminates with rousing power chords bubbling to the surface. “Don’t Ask,” a gentle acoustic ballad, evokes the spirit of Elliott Smith, with its laments over a relationship in turmoil. Beginning as an amalgamation of sampled percussion and sparse guitar, “Showcase” eventually transforms into a freakish, hypnotic vocal experiment. The rest of the album is similarly heady, with the songs inexorably burrowing into your subconscious after multiple listens.
The guys in Grizzly Bear announced recently that they are working on a new album, and it should be interesting to see what this means for the progression of their sound. The band says to expect a more realized album, with an emphasis on vocal harmonies, sentiments that have been hinted at with their recent live performances. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: With Horn of Plenty, Grizzly Bear has given us a challenging, provocative album that still appeals to folk sensibilities.