Verdict – 8.6
The fourth album by American indie rock band Grizzly Bear is less about highlighting those terrific harmonies and vocals they’ve established, and more about layering endless textures to make us take notice of what is (or what isn’t) important in music. The result is an expansive collection of songs that are not very accessible and definitely a demanding listen. However, the band have further proved there is no one making music quite like this currently, and Shields is one of the most rewarding records of the year. As much experimental/art rock as it is baroque/psychedelic pop, the underlying indie rock genre wasn’t better represented this year.
The opener “Sleeping Ute” has a brilliant guitar riff, and showcases the vocal ability and textural layering perfectly, all before stripping it down and finishing the song very Fleet Foxes-like. “Speak in Rounds” follows that and narrates about the end of a relationship, as they state, “step down, just once learn how to be alone.” “Yet Again” is not only this album’s best track, but one of the year’s best, with strong vocals and lyrics, with captivating instrumentation. Has the great lyric, “Take it all in stride, speak, don’t confide.”
Another album highlight is probably the most accessible song on the album (though that isn’t saying much), “A Simple Answer”, with a catchy chorus and its nihilistic theme (no wrong or right, just do whatever you like) before ending with a stunning harmony end. “Gun-Shy” is the most pop-like song on the album, and sounds youthful and energetic in comparison to the rest of Shields and is a welcome change of pace.
Some will find this album their undisputed best of the year, and some will find it un-interesting and will pass it by almost immediately. It isn’t necessarily polarizing, but there is a definite ‘acquired taste’ feel to Grizzly Bear. Not to say that is a bad thing, from the complex intricacies and developed sounds to the simple and honestly resigned lyrics like, “But honestly its fine”, there isn’t a lot to fault with the band. An impressive follow-up to the brilliant Veckatimest.
Top Songs –Sleeping Ute, Yet Again, A Simple Answer