Grizzly Bear: Horn of Plenty

How can you call an album "perfect background music" without having it come across as an insult? Because honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever consciously listened to Horn of Plenty by Grizzly Bear.

The album’s transparently sparse songs hover so close to a perceptual horizon that focus would dispel the music’s hypnotic charm. Yeah, I don’t know what that last sentence says either. I can only liken it to that time between dreaming and wakefulness, when the conscious mind can’t tell it’s slipping into a deep sleep.

Extend that feeling for the entire length of Horn of Plenty, and that’s what it feels like listening to this album.

I should have written this review a long time ago, but doing so would have meant paying attention to the music. I didn’t want to pay attention to the music.

So much gets revealed on the album when it’s allowed to seep through unconsciously. (Yeah, I think a comparison to Music for Airports is coming on.)

Ed Droste sings barely above a whisper, while the rest of the band punctuates the sleek acoustic guitar lines with eclectic instrumentation. Grizzly Bear often gets compared to Sigur Rós, but I don’t think even the Icelandians can reach that level of sparse.

The band’s second album, Yellow House, seems to get higher accolades from fans, but I prefer Horn of Plenty. On Yellow House, Grizzly Bear cleaned up its sound, going for something with higher fidelity. The lo-fi roughness of Horn of Plenty, however, strikes me as more intimate and beautiful.

Neither album is suitable for rush-hour traffic. In that setting, the lethargic pace of the group’s music doesn’t suite the high-stress environment of a cramped urban drive, where vigilance is required.

No, I’ve enjoyed Grizzly Bear more when it’s playing in the background while I do computer work. Snatches of melody and slivers of hooks are just enough to tug at my consciousness without having me lose focus on what I’m doing.

What would happen if I actually listened to Horn of Plenty? I wouldn’t hazard a guess. I’m just content with the feeling of having dreamed it.