Grizzly Bear have released their fourth single from upcoming album Painted Ruins, set to come out August 18 on RCA. This will be their fifth and longest-incubated studio album, coming out five years after 2012's Shields. The songs put out in support of this LP have been progressively more Grizzly Bear, with the first, "Three Rings", sounding almost like the band had begun to trespass tentatively over the Top 40 threshold, "Mourning Sound" maintaining some of that accessibility, "Four Cypresses" strolling back into the experimental realm they know best, and now "Neighbors" situating fans comfortably back into familiar Grizzly Bear territory. But familiar territory for this band, in my opinion, does not signify staleness or lack of growth, because the foundation of their style is so labyrinthine that they could explore it infinitely without ever needing to shake things up by streamlining their sound into pop conventionality.
The video offers a smorgasbord of symbolism in its study of domestication, choosing the family to depict what the lyrics could be pinpointing for any kind of relationship or experience. Literal environments are ingeniously used to illustrate how energies can stultify when bottled and synthesized, or when attempting to shelter those energies past their expiration: the characters are physically enveloped in pieces of their environment as they transition from the wild into more complacent circumstances, switching out grass togas for sponge sweaters and bath-towel dresses (the male protagonist seems often to be imprisoned by his attire, burying himself in gravel and rocks as well as a sofa).
The initial relationship is catalyzed in the stimulating circumstances of nature (the first time their eyes meet is after he has noticed her injury), and in the faulty attempt to preserve that wilderness (moving into a home with floral wallpaper, a plethora of potted plants, a pristine garden, and even a flower shaped chandelier), it becomes static, the charged look they shared in the river now subdued into a one-sided glance, half-hidden in a doorway, at her fading scar. They become like neighbors separated only by a short physical distance but unable to break through the barrier they have put up within that space. Instead, they can only watch it all break down from either side: "Face to face/We'll watch our bodies break." When a feral child wanders into their meticulously created space, the spark this ignites is again tragically devoured through continued attempts at harnessing it, this time by visually capturing their posed existence. The final result is a complete erasure, a replacement of what it was by what they tried to make it be – the family photo becomes just a photo of their wallpaper.