Indie bigwigs Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent (and David Byrne) and The xx all released new albums this week. Never heard of them? Allow us to break it down for you.
Who: Hailing from Brooklyn, Grizzly Bear began in the early 2000s, carrying with them a sense of occasionally weird, yet still melodic, experimentation. Since then, the band has had two big releases in addition to this week’s “Shields” — “Yellow House” and “Veckatimest.” On “Yellow House,” expect to hear some of the band’s more psychedelic material, including the single “Knife,” perhaps one of their best–known pieces. However, the band may be most recently known thanks to “Blue Valentine,” a movie with a soundtrack prominently featuring softer songs from “Veckatimest.”
Sounds like: Have you ever wanted a lullaby as an adult? A lullaby not only soothing in melody and soft–spoken, but tinged with the yearning and pains that come with advanced age? Grizzly Bear fits perfectly into this niche from time to time — the band also fits into psyche–rock and, occasionally, pop. Whenever you need to be (moodily) soothed, take a listen.
Listen if you like: Radiohead, My Morning Jacket, Phoenix, Animal Collective
Who: David Byrne was a founding member of Talking Heads, cementing the band’s legendary new wave status in history as a songwriter and vocalist; he went on to a long and varied solo career. St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) is an indie–rock songstress and virtuoso guitarist who rose to prominence after singing backup for Sufjan Stevens. “Love this Giant” is the product of a three–year collaboration between the two of them — the talented beauty and the graying veteran, a pairing not unlike the partnership formed by Allison Krauss and Robert Plant for the Grammy–winning album “Raising Sand.”
Sounds like: Something like the sum of its parts: the pointed sweetness of Clark’s voice punctuates rather than deflates Byrne’s rough and ragged presence. Combining churning rock with a horn section gives the songs a buoyancy and bounce that neither Clark nor Byrne quite capture in their own work.
Listen if you like: One or both of the parties involved. New–wave devotees and contemporary indie fans alike will enjoy this album.
Who: Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim have a history that goes far beyond The xx. They have been close since age three, attending school, going on vacations and, in 2005, founding The xx together. Joined by producer Jamie Smith, who now goes by Jamie xx, the group began performing at local venues while still in high school, honing their dreamy, minimalist pop sound. With their eponymous 2009 debut, they found themselves propelled to indie superstardom, complete with sold–out shows and the number three spot on Pitchfork’s 2009 year–end list.
Sounds Like: The xx’s music consists mainly of whispered, sensual lyrics against a spare instrumental backdrop. Their delicately crafted songs carry an emotive quality that makes every lyric sound visceral and consequential. Croft and Sim gently alternate between lyrical back–and–forths and harmony, while the instrumental effects are never overpowering and provide an appropriate frame for the emotional quality of the lyrics.
Listen if you like: Bon Iver, Florence + the Machine, Grizzly Bear