It’s become pretty apparent to me that Grizzly Bear is a band that you have to spend a decent amount of time with to fully appreciate. Their last release, 2009’s Veckatimest was an album I admired at the time, but it hasn’t been until this year that I’ve really grown to love it, as well as their brooding 2006 release, Yellow House. Maybe it’s just a matter of me getting older and becoming a little more accomidating towards music that’s more laid back and carefully crafted, but this is a band that just keeps sounding better and better to me the more I listen to them, and Shields is no exception.
Though Grizzly Bear are a band that tend to be characterized by their lusciously meticulous art rock, there are a few less restrained moments on Shields. The opening track in particular, the riff-y “Sleeping Ute” bascially sees the band in full-on rock mode, or least whatever a Grizzly Bear song sounds like in full-on rock mode. There isn’t quite a knockout single the caliber of something like “Two Weeks”on Shields, but I think “Yet Again” comes close enough. It’s a song that aptly reflects the looser, more expansive nature of the album, while once again making great use of Ed Droste’s delicate vocals.
The second half of Shields is noticeably a bit more atmospheric and symphonic, and thus entrenched in the kind of grandeur that these guys pull off so effortlessly. There’s an abundance of strings and horns throughout this second half, but the band always seems very grounded and intimate, without a trace of bombastic or indulgant tendencies.
Another thing that I really dig about the way Grizzly Bear operates is that unlike a lot of bands nowadays, it really feels like a group project. Vocalists Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen are undeniably the figureheads of the band, but the fact that bassist Chris Taylor produces the album while drummer Chris Bear provides these intricate drum parts that keep it all together, not to mention the fact that everyone contributes backup vocals, certainly adds to that group dynamic. In a post-REM world, it’s nice to see a band that can build off of that kind of diverse creative chemistry, and Shields is consequently an album that results in about as many different musical ideas and excursions as you could ask for.
Favorite Tracks: “Speak In Rounds”, “Yet Again”, “Sun In Your Eyes”