So a year after the release of their last album, Grizzly Bear release a collection of extras and a couple of tracks remixed by whoever’s currently high up on the last.fm ladder; it’s the Friend EP all over again.
Getting the remixes out of the way first, Lindstrøm’s remix of “Gun-Shy” is a straight-forward dance number (assuming you’ve nothing better to dance to), which is fine, at least until Ed Droste’s vocals show up half-way through; they sound like they’re just obligatorily there to remind us what the track was originally. The way Liars have cut and looped vocals from “A Simple Answer” actively annoy me; when the beat finally kicks in halfway through, things get livelier, but then the drums depart suddenly and we’re left with the same problem. By far, Nicholas Jaar’s remix of “Sleeping Ute” is the best of the three, stripping away the busy arrangement of the original and replacing it with empty space.
Of the five tracks remaining, it’s important to remember that three of them are just demos. Every slide on the acoustic guitar of “Everyone I Know” is painfully heard, but it’s not in the same vein as – say – Grouper’s songs, which seek to put you inside the recording room. “Will Calls,” which was shared early, has gotten a lot of praise in critics’ circles, but the quiet-loud dynamic shift feels clumsy and forced – there’s no thought given to a transition. This is a stark contrast to the natural occurring oscillations of “Sun in Your Eyes” that did make it to the album. Both these tracks sound under-produced and merely hint at something that could have been. “Listen and Wait” is a trifle; the band simply lays down a skeletal waltz and add sounds on top of it. “Smothering Green,” also in 3/4 time, might be the most fleshed out track here, but the crescendo doesn’t engage; perhaps because it takes two extra minutes to get there, as opposed to “Sleeping Ute” or “Speak in Rounds.” I’d actually say the Marfa demo of “Taken Down” is the best of the bunch, thanks to the indelible vocal melody from Ed Droste (I personally wouldn’t mind replacing “The Hunt” off Shields with this – the only track there that never wowed me).
It is what it is – a nice way to kill time before the next Grizzly Bear album hits. Which based on their past history, I’d say is another two years coming.