Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest Is A Colorful, Cinemascopic Half-Speed Mastered 45rpm Vinyl Me Please Reissue

I discovered New York’s Grizzly Bear in a most typical way, for me — over the in-store PA system at Amoeba Music here in San Francisco. When their in-store play got to the band’s then-big hit — “Two Weeks,” from their May 2009 album Veckatimest — I realized I had indeed previously heard the song’s distinctive, earworm-inducing, millennial-whoop-flavored signature hook. Soon enough, I started collecting the Grizzly Bear catalog on vinyl.

While I’ve enjoyed my 180g Veckatimest reissue, I’ve long suspected there might be more depth tucked away in the recording. Thus, I was excited to learn the good folks at Vinyl Me Please (VMP) were re-releasing Veckatimest in a half-speed mastered, 45rpm colored vinyl edition.

I’m always surprised just how many people haven’t heard of Grizzly Bear. Calling them “indie rock” doesn’t really do them any justice, since indie rock doesn’t usually feature Mellotrons, multi-part harmonies, and bass guitar solos. Grizzly Bear also isn’t afraid to break out rich nylon-string acoustic guitars akin to English artists from the late ’60s and early ’70s. In some ways, the music on Veckatimest leans much more toward Gentle Giant, early Genesis, and some choice Robert Wyatt albums. Imagine what might have happened if the lead singer from Beirut, another Brooklyn-based group I like, went to a Summer of Love/Acid Test afterparty meditation jam with Jeff Buckley, Lamb-era Peter Gabriel, Graham Nash, David Crosby, SMiLE-era Brian Wilson, and Procol Harum. The music they all might have made together may well have started to sound like Grizzly Bear. 0617.apalbumreview.grizzlybear4.jpg And now, to the vinyl. In general, this VMP edition is the best version of Veckatimest I’ve heard to date, with richer bass and midranges complementing the clean high-end. The standard-weight vinyl pressing is happily quite nice for the most part. (More on that in a moment.) It is well-centered, and both colored-vinyl variant discs in the set (orange/pink) are quiet. The music jumps out of the speakers, and the disc effectively disappears from your mindset.

There is a lot of lovely detailing coming across in the new 45rpm VMP version of Veckatimest. The low fuzz bass lines are much more distinct, resonant, and prominent on the opening track, “Southern Point.” The drum sounds are bigger and more resonant. There’s nice soundstage apparent on tracks like “Hold Still.” The guest backing vocals from Victoria Legrand (of Beach House fame) on “Two Weeks” are more distinct amidst the rest of the band’s harmonies. “Ready Able” opens with a musical interlude that sounds especially gorgeous now — almost like an outtake moment from Brian Wilson’s September 2004 SMiLE album.

In general, VMP’s Veckatimest feels far less compressed than my earlier pressing. I’m sensing more presence of the house-turned-studio where much of the music was recorded (on Cape Cod, of all places) coming through my speakers. This is very apparent on “Two Weeks,” which feels more open and airy. Little details such as the Partridge Family-esque harpsichord arpeggiating behind the chorus sections of that song appear much more distinct here. 0617.apalbumreview.grizzlybear2.jpg Perhaps most importantly for me, there is far less of that telltale hard digital edge, particularly around the lead vocals on the new VMP pressing. I can turn this up good and loud without feeling harshness threatening to take over the music — a common casualty I hear in many modern productions.

The stereo separation on the VMP version of Veckatimest is significantly improved. Comparatively, at times my earlier 180g version feels like near-mono (it isn’t, but I wonder if it was originally mastered with portable and automotive listening in mind). This new version feels quite a bit more cinemascopic, in that sense.

The mastering is overall much nicer on the new VMP Veckatimest, albeit a little louder than my earlier pressing. Curiously, the tracks fill up essentially the same amount of physical disc space at 45rpm as the 33 1/3 pressing. 0617.apalbumreview.grizzlybear1.jpg So, what’s the big difference here? It is the same original album after all, not a remix. Well, assuming all other production elements are constant, the one significant variant I noticed from production notes on the VMP website is their pressing of Veckatimest had its new 45rpm half-speed mastered lacquers cut by Barry Grint at Alchemy Mastering At AIR, the mastering arm of the legendary recording studio created by the late, great Sir George Martin. I suspect that’s probably a pretty significant factor in delivering this fresh perspective on these recordings.

The only production disappointment with my particular Veckatimest pressing is there was an odd sort of scratch on one side, resulting in a click through one song. I’ve alerted the folks at VMP about this, and I’m hoping I’ll get a replacement sometime soon. (Also hopefully, my copy is just a one-off anomaly.)

My only other nit is it would have been nice if VMP had reproduced the 12-page booklet as included in the original UK pressings. However, the new version does include its own simple but useful booklet featuring a fine perspective essay by writer Sophie Frances Kemp. The new edition also includes a lovely, suitable-for-framing art print by cover artist William J. O’Brien.

All in all, I am very happy with this fine reissue of a 21st Century progressive pop classic, and have no issues recommending the VMP edition of Veckatimest to you.

(Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for AudiophileReview.com, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.)

COMMENTS
Chemguy's picture

I really enjoyed that. One question...was this album an analogue recording? If not, do we know what files they used to cut the vinyl?

HoomanR's picture

From what I've seen/heard modern half speed mastering are all cut digital. Watched an interview with Kevin Gray about this yesterday and according to him, half speed mastering causes issues that can't be resolved with analogue filtering means and can only be resolved in the digital domain.

kenmac's picture

good to see you aboard

viridian's picture

I appreciate the excellent prose as well as your focused approach.

francisalbert's picture

Great review - very informative. You have big Fremer shoes to fill but you’re off to good start. I’ll always be indebted to MF for reintroducing me to the joys of vinyl . On a positive note I certainly won’t miss having to weed through the petulant verbose drivel written by MF’s thin skinned self aggrandizing teenage protege Milachi Liu .

latinaudio's picture

LOL! Some people find it intolerable to admit that there is always, among the young, someone more capable and talented, and they do not forgive themselves. I disagreed with Malachi (his name is Malachi, MALACHI) on some things, but he's incredibly talented. If he were your son you would be proud of him.
Sorry francisalbert, Sinatra is a name too big for you...

Tom L's picture

I hoped the Malachi haters would shut up or find something else to bitch about. Apparently not.

Andy18367's picture

...piling on a 15-year-old. WWYGS? (What would your grandchildren say?)

markmck12's picture

Great album. Also, the new solo Daniel Rossen is excellent.

You said, 'Thus, I was excited to learn the good folks at Vinyl Me Please (VMP) were re-releasing Veckatimest in a half-speed mastered, 45rpm colored vinyl edition'

For clarification, is this the version that was released eight (Oct 21) months ago?

arcman67's picture

I've considered joining up. Some of their Jazz offerings look to be very nice

DigMyGroove's picture

Yes, VMP’s record of the month releases most often rival those of MoFi, AP, Craft, etc.. They use top mastering engineers on many of their records of the month, which are often AAA releases and have top quality sleeves. I’ve amassed a very nice assortment of albums both by known artists, and many I was unfamiliar with since joining nearly three years ago. Their customer service is excellent. Should you receive a pressing with issues they replace it, and you don’t need to send back the bad one. You do need to send photos or a video so they can see and hear the flaws. It was recently announced VMP are building their own pressing plant in Colorado, with that I would expect QC to improve greatly.

arcman67's picture

I do like the idea of a Record of the Month Club

Anton D's picture

I joined for the joy of supporting the idea, plus the print and cocktail angle, but I stay for the fun curation and quality.

Plus, they released a great new pressing of Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth, and soon I will have my first ever pressing of Willie Nelson’s Across the Borderline!

Both thumbs up for VMP!

Glotz's picture

MMMM.... Pure Willie blend. LOVE that album. Teatro too! Now that I have Teatro, I may need to get Borderline!

Voolston's picture

I think it a compliment to say that I forgot about all fuss regarding the change here at A.P. immediately upon starting my read of your review. My attention never wandered and I was inspired to go give this a release a streaming preview. Thanks. Looking forward to future reviews.

Steelhead's picture

I would add to the compliments for this review. Very well done

I have the Grizzly Bear Shields cd and really enjoy the music.

Your review makes me want to investigate Veckatimest on vinyl. Can't ask for anything more from a review than that, right?

PMO's picture

A great review and something that I would not have known about otherwise. Really nice job and a great start for the new Analogue Planet!

ivansbacon's picture

I appreciated that there was no steaming files, MP3s or CD's used in the formulation of this review, saving me from complete the befuddlement of trying to understand why digital on AnalogPlanet. Thanks.
I also appreciated that i am made aware of something i would otherwise be oblivious to.

bvanpelt's picture

I see that the album goes for $47 (non-member) on vinylmeplease.com, but discogs and ebay have many copies in the $30 range. One seller on discogs sells the album for $30 sealed (brand new), and they include the shipping in that cost.

I don't know why it's so inexpensive, but it seems like if you are a fan, this is your lucky day.

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