Grizzly Bear – Three Rings

Don’t you know that I can make it better?

The first time I listened to Three Rings I cried. Emotionally speaking, the song absolutely battered me and it’s taken me a while to figure out why.

The track, the first to be released from their forthcoming album, Painted Ruins, is a continuation of the Brooklyn band’s ever evolving sound; which has drifted from a Jazz-addicted Beach Boys (Yellow House), to precise chamber-pop (Veckatimest) and onto baroque rock (Shields) in just three albums.

On Three Rings, this evolution continues. Stark industrial beats and deep base keys have been added and lurk menacingly underneath the bands usual tropes; orchestral string, flutes, vocal harmonies and, of course, Daniel Rossens intricate guitar work.

While at first the affect is a little jarring for fans – the transition is similar to how odd it felt to when Radiohead started using processed beats on Kid-A – the additions fit well, and brings additional heft and momentum without ever overwhelming Ed Droste’s delicate voice.

With the benefit of 20-30 listens, it’s become clear that what hit me so hard is the narrative laid out in the songs lyrics. When Droste sings “Will you move on again? / See that time to flee again / You always make it alright / Is that the way it is? / You know your move around the bend,” he dragged up every rotten, anxiety-ridden memory of the romantic relationships I had in my 20s (I’m 36 now).

When boiled down, his words became the essence of how my own lack of self-worth and excess of empathy helped attract partners looking for someone non-threatening to move on from a previously damaging experience; I offered closeness without the risk of getting hurt.

The amount of times I was told that I was loved, that I had helped my partner only for them to discard me quickly were beyond count. It made me bitter and made me beg: “I wanna be the guy who’s right / I want you to see things clearly / I wanna make it alright” and left my own mix of neurosis’ worse, as my understanding for their pain clashed with my own: “Don’t you be so reasoned / Don’t you know that I can make it better? / Don’t you ever leave me / Don’t you feel it all come together?”

It happened a lot and for a long-time, it diminished me as person and eventually left me numb and it took some pretty massive, life-changing decisions to break the cycle. Decisions that have helped me find the sort of loving relationship that I never truly believed I deserved.