We imagine that when musicians from a group that has achieved a certain amount of success decide to venture out solo, one of the first things that they must think about is whether to continue to offer the same sound but with their own focus, or whether to take the opportunity to experiment with the music that they haven’t been able to play so far, for whatever reason. This situation must surely have passed through the mind of Daniel Rossen, one of the four members of Grizzly Bear and half of the inactive Department Of Eagles (along with Fred Nicolaus). His emancipation comes six months after that of band-mate Chris Taylor (CANT) and in the midst of the process of recording Grizzly Bears’ fourth album. Unlike Taylor, Rossen has chosen not to stray from the path of calm folk music that he has followed throughout his career in recording his debut EP, “Silent Hour / Golden Mile”.
The five songs on it were recorded by Daniel Rossen himself in rehearsal rooms and little corners of New York. One could say that 80% of “Silent Hour / Golden Mile” is him, and the other 20% comes from guest stars - who helped him with a lap steel guitar, woodwind arrangements, and drums. It was Eric Slick from Dr. Dog who put the percussion on the last track, “Golden Mile” - the cut with the catchiest chorus – and he is directly responsible for its galloping rhythm. The best example of how well the artist handles himself with just a little help from others is “Return To Form”. Despite the tracks luxurious form - with an exquisite development that ends up giving pride of place to almost oriental guitars, subtle woodwinds that don’t clamour for your attention, and the trademark choruses - almost all of the responsibility falls on the singer from Grizzly Bear (even the backing vocals are his alone).
Although as we have said that the sound of this EP doesn’t stray too far from Grizzly Bear’s, there are differences in production. Instead of choosing a more meticulous, baroque, sophisticated focus, Rossen has tended towards spontaneity. The best piece of the lot, “Saint Nothing”, is said to be built mainly from the first take that he recorded. It is a lovely lullaby led by an affecting piano, very similar to the majestic closing of “Veckatimest”, “Foreground”. However, it needs just a pinch of something to make that Disney magic that only seems to occur when the four play together. It is dark, crackling, and almost oppressive; elegant, but not as sober as it seems (between Rossen’s voice and the piano, some timid woodwinds also slip in). “Silent Hour / Golden Mile” won’t surprise anyone who knows the author’s main group’s albums at all well, but this songbook is dedicated precisely to their fans. If you love everything that the New York quartet does, these songs won’t save your life, but they will help you to survive the wait for their next album with dignity.