For Grizzly Bear's second release onto Warp Records, they give us a collection of alternate versions of old songs and covers; both them covering other artists and other artists covering them. For those, like me, uninitiated into the world of Grizzly Bear until now, it is a melancholy, autumnal place, where harmony and arrangement are carefully considered but also deliberately lo-fi. A pleasant, unconfrontational soundtrack to an afternoon spent in the attic leafing through old photo albums (the non-facebook type). This record is not the best introduction to the band (last year's 'Yellow House' is probably a better place to start), but it does contain several gems that fans will no doubt slaver over.
Opener 'Alligator' is an expanded version of a miniature that appeared on debut 'Horn of Plenty'. In this incarnation, it begins with a nursery rhyme-esque bit of doggerel, then blooms into a harmonised vocal arrangement, backed crashing guitars and drums, before climaxing with a stirring brass section. 'He Hit Me' is a cover of a 60's pop standard first performed by the Crystals. Grizzly Bear slow it down, strip it down, and turn up the psychadelica. Again, the perfectly arranged vocal parts add some real pathos to the song, and turn what would otherwise be a fairly uninspiring interpretation into something more enjoyable, sounding not unlike the Hollies or Moody Blues. 'Knife', the bands most successful single to date, it represented twice here. CSS turn in a fairly predictable electro-pop cover, replacing guitar with synthesisers and tying it together with a solid, thoroughly danceable beat. It sounds a little incongruous among the dreamy, ponderous tracks that constitute the rest of the album. Sitting more comfortably in the tracklisting is Atlas Sound's take on 'Knife', which takes a slightly surreal chiming as the its foundation and adds a wistful vocal. Final track 'Deep Blue Sea' is a home recorded version of a traditional folk song; its intimate vocals and plucked guitar outlining a longing melody and making it the most accessible track on this collection.
Although this compilation is unlikely to win the band hordes of new fans, it is a demonstration of their formidable abilities as songwriters, arrangers and performers. It is evident that they have a great album in them. This, of course, isn't it, but then it wasn't meant to be.
6.5 / 10