Grizzly Bear – Shields

Rating: ★★★★½

With their release of Veckatimest in 2009, Grizzly Bear essentially placed themselves on the map for those of you who had no prior knowledge of these indie rockers. Receiving accolades upon accolades, that album made it to the top of end of year lists and fans swooned over the brooding, yet airy sounds of this band.

While I was a fan of that last album, I have to confess that I didn’t enjoy it to the same obsessive level that others seemed to. After too much repeated listening, I found myself tuning out of the music and forgetting I was listening; the passive and subtle nature of this band made it easy for them to slip into the background. Thus, the biggest change I was hoping for in Shields was a shift from the passive, to a more aggressive and gripping sound dispersed through the whole record.

The singles for this release foreshadow the success of this album. “Sleeping Ute” and “Yet Again” have that same edge to them that prior Grizzly Bear singles, like “Two Weeks” possessed. First up is “Sleeping Ute,” which is guitar heavy, to say the least. Loops of distorted guitars welcome you in, and then the crash of the lighter-than-air-percussion follows and it isn’t long before the familiar calming vocals of Ed Droste break into the mix. At four minutes and thirty-six seconds of experimental rock bliss, this track is excellent for you to embark on your journey through Shields. It grips you right from the beginning, doling out a rockier jam than expected from Grizzly Bear, but the band also backs off for the last minute of the song, introducing a winding and equally interesting sound. “Yet Again” holds this same outright rock flair, complete with the catchiness of the aforementioned past single.

Unlike Veckatimest, it’s not just the singles on Shields that really catch your attention—the way it should be on cohesive album. Each song is enticing and an important part of the record. Even on the slower numbers, take “The Hunt,” for example, on which it’s difficult to slip away from the captivating nature of the music. Even late in the game, the band still manages to cram in another fully fleshed out song in “Sun in Your Eyes.” This closing piece is multi-crescendo’ed and epic in nature, spanning seven minutes in length, but never losing your complete attention through each swell and fall.

Grizzly Bear have certainly stepped up their game—fans of their previous work will grow impossibly more smitten and newcomers will have a hard time resisting to fall in love.

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