During an era when bands continue to crib a decade or guitar tone and drive it into the dirt, Grizzly Bear have avoided all obvious appropriation. That’s not to say that influences arise out of the ether, but they’ve spent innumerable hours translating them into their own secular sacraments. Originally ascribed to freak-folk, they quickly proved uninterested in solipsistic harmonies and forest harp reveries loosely based on vintage grooming shops and dead canyon days.
Almost a decade deep, they’ve refused to go disco or dubstep or anything inspired by all night sessions fishing for inspiration in dollar crates. They’ve refined what their band can be by turning inward. So when they apply the loud-soft dynamic pioneered by The Pixies and Nirvana, it doesn’t sound remotely like they’re trotting out antique ideas. It feels like the chaos and pull of two excellent lead singers and a meticulous band waging a civil war that always finds peaceful resolution. This is nearly seven minutes, but it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to incorporate prog. It is pop with the patience of parishioners.
At two minutes, “Will Calls” turns anthemic then settles back into a simmer. Ed Droste’s voice has no need for gravity and Chris Bear’s drum slaps are powerful enough to break bricks. The sinuous float of R&B weaves in and out, but they never teeter into the white-boy soul category. A sax line even dances seraphic in the background. It is Grizzly Bear, which means it’s intended to occupy a territory beholden to no trend. There is the sense of the searching mystic, but they never make the references too explicit. You could be waiting for god or a lover or death or Texas BBQ, but there is enough open space to make up your own mind. Marfa could be Mars. The lines always crook out at odd angles, but you never fail to reach the destination. Without being obvious, they’ve perfected the art of always moving on.