Sep 14, 2012 Issue #42 - The Protest Issue
Like any Grizzly Bear release, Shields demands multiple listens before one is able to peel the layers back to see how good it just might be. This shouldn't be anything new to fans—Veckatimest was widely regarded as one of the best albums of 2009, but most everyone, if they were honest, would admit that it took some time to realize it might be better than good. Shields demands a similar amount of patience and engagement—and, fortunately, it pays out similar rewards.
Opening track, "Sleeping Ute," is a good predictor of what's to come. It's the sound of a less fussy Grizzly Bear—as good as Veckatimest was, there were moments that felt almost asphyxiated by the care and precision of the arrangements. "Sleeping Ute" moves away from that, with echoey guitars, a soaring hook, and a slightly more jangly sound.
Second track, "Speak in Rounds," is much more open than any previous Grizzly Bear song, making this shift even clearer. These songs also demonstrate that the band hasn't lost their gift for melody.
The album is filled with wonderful little moments that add up to create a remarkable whole. There's the buzzing, almost jazz-y undercurrent of "What's Wrong," the sunny, sing-a-long rounds of "Gun-Shy," the chamber pop of "Half Gate," and the seven-minute, vocal/piano-centric closer, "Sun in Your Eyes."
Along the way, there are Grizzly Bear's wonderful harmonies, the voice of one member soaring above the other's more down-to-earth tones. At this point, it's a compliment to the band that it's difficult to discern where Ed Droste's vocal contributions end and Daniel Rossen's start. Nowhere is this given a better stage than the album's best song, "A Simple Answer," a swirling build-up to a choral breakdown. It's a reminder that this band, fussy or not, is making some of the most moving music of the year. (www.grizzly-bear.net)
Author rating: 8.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10