Around the time Grizzly Bear released Shields, their oft-overlooked follow-up to Veckatimest, Daniel Rossen self-produced an even more overlooked EP of extras. Silent Hour/Golden Mile is a strong little collection of songs and acts as a great counterweight to Shields’ grandiosity – probably even better than the B-Side mini-album the band put out at the same time. Rossen mostly stayed quiet though, releasing another Grizzly Bear album that was less imposing and a bit more accessible, for better or worse.
His full-length debut, You Belong There, is what many expected Grizzly Bear to do at some point, even when it seemed Rossen was the one pushing towards Painted Ruins. Each track builds towards the kind of cathartic cacophony of Veckatimest, but this time the harmonies are over-dubbed, and the ornamentation is supplied by Rossen himself. Each track finds room to stretch and unsurprisingly fixates around his intricate guitar work.
As with any self-produced album built around a single entity, You Belong There is personal. While Grizzly bear often focused on the kind of arms-length songwriting that can dissolve into their harmonies, Rossen focuses on himself, tying the loftily constructed overtures down with his own weight. On “Unpeopled Space” Rossen touches on the ten years since Silent Hour/Golden Mile, “was it worth it”? His disillusionment with the music scene and move towards domestic, bucolic bliss could sound cliched, but each track here feels stuffed out of purpose, not boredom. For all of its beautiful intricacies and virtuosity, You Belong There sometimes struggles to develop its ideas fast enough to keep up with Rossen’s ingenuity.
The album is riddled with pretty hooks that are buried under interesting complexities. While “It’s a Passage” and “I’ll Wait for You to Visit” balance their purpose excellently, too often do moments only make a fleeting impression as they struggle against the current of his creativity. But acknowledging that free association is often the point, it’s still hard not to imagine that if stretched to a double album, these kernels of inspiration could stand among Grizzly Bear’s best. Regardless of if Rossen is less approachable though, he sounds more akin to his work on Yellow House than ever before, and that’s a good sign.