PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Grizzly Bear: Friend EP

Grizzly Bear's Friend EP marks yet another evolution for the group, one that pushes them into full-blown rock band status.

Grizzly Bear

Friend EP

Label: Warp
US Release Date: 2007-11-06
UK Release Date: 2007-11-05

It could be easy to see Grizzly Bear's Friend EP on the rack at your favorite record store and dismiss it as a hold-over release. Looking at the track list, full of songs that have appeared on previous releases, along with not one but two bands covering "Knife", it would seem logical to conclude that this is nothing more than a well-timed filler EP to keep people sated until the next Grizzly Bear full-length. I mean, despite the parentheticals tacked onto the song titles, such as "Alligator (Choir Version)", can these versions really be that different from their originals?

Well, yes. In fact, if this is a holdover release, it might be the best one in recent memory. The Friend EP shows that Grizzly Bear has gone through some changes since last year's Yellow House that are just as radical as the changes made when they expanded into a full band after Horn of Plenty. The first four songs on this generous EP were recorded last august in a church, and the change in venue for recording makes these songs sound drastically different from their previous forms.

Yellow House was an album full of the silence and stillness and creaks of its title location, where the album was recorded. Those songs expand in quiet, lonesome ways, down dark halls and into dusty rooms. But the version of "Little Brother" found on the Friend EP seems to be very much aware of its new digs. Recording the song in a church, the band seems to go for a sound that is, well, religion-big. And they succeed. The finger-plucked acoustic guitars, so prevalent on Yellow House, are subbed-out for big, beefy electric guitars full of expansive echo. The drums drive everything forward, and while the song stays restrained much of the time, that restraint doesn't last. The song builds to an arena-size crescendo. And what makes it so effective is the fact that the pounding drums and churning guitars are still soaked in the band's beautiful vocal harmonies.

Grizzly Bear are nothing short of a great rock band on these tracks, but their sense of texture and offbeat movement is not lost. The Choir Version of "Alligator" finds the band getting help from Beirut's Zach Condon and the Dirty Projectors' Dave Longstreth. The band's already solid knack for orchestration is made all the stronger by adding these two arrangement gurus, and they manage to blow up the song, originally only a minute-and-a-half vignette on Horn of Plenty, into a big, raucous ebb and flow of orchestral pop. The drums are particularly strong on this track, subdued when they need to be, but capable of surprisingly flashy fills that keep the song's chunky tension intact. By the time the horns come in at the end of the song, Grizzly Bear has managed to completely change your expectations for the rest of the EP. Gone is any sound you could possibly call precious or gentle, and in its place is a noisy, exciting force to be reckoned with.

The band's take on the Carole King-penned "He Hit Me" is the best meshing of their quieter Yellow House sound with their new rock band status. The band channels the song's R & B roots, but also turns them on their ear with dirty, off-kilter guitar riffs to juxtapose Droste's high register. It acts as a slightly calmer hinge between "Alligator" and "Little Brother" but also stands on its own as one of the more stunning covers to be heard this year.

The second half of the EP is populated mostly by covers. CSS and Atlas Sound both offer solid renditions of the already oft-covered and remixed "Knife", but Band of Horses' take on "Plans" is the most interesting cover on Friend. Bridwell and company take the dark folk tune and turn it into an Appalachian sing-along. The banjo-carried instrumentation fades in and out, leaving the spotlight on the band's spot-on harmonies. It may be lighter fare than Grizzly Bear's original, but it is not without its own sort of heft.

The Friend EP clocks in at over 43 minutes, and the running time is only half the indication of this discs generous size. Grizzly Bear has expanded their palate here, and proven that they have many tricks still up their sleeve. This is certainly not easily dismissed like most holdover releases, but it builds anticipation for a new record better than any filler disc could hope to.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.