Last updateWed, 03 Mar 2021 2pm


Grizzly Bear Shines with "Shields"

The first line uttered on “Shields,” the latest album from indie rock champions Grizzly Bear, goes, “Dreamed a long day, just wandering free.” This line, out by Daniel Rossen on the thunderous “Sleeping Ute,” is not just a retelling of some half-remembered daydream, but is in fact a revealing descriptor of the album itself.

With its brooding sense of atmosphere, patience in song delivery, and weird, often jar­ring details, the music found on “Shields” resembles something of a lucid dream, where the lis­tener has full power to explore every inch of terrain dreamed up. This album comes with plenty of territory to explore.

Since forming in 2002, Griz­zly Bear has become revered for creating some of the most visceral and unique music in the world of indie rock, with incredible albums like the lush, expansive “Yellow House” and the more focused, baroque pop-oriented “Veckatimest” pushing the boundaries of rock, pop, and folk far beyond their limita­tions.

Though “Shields” isn’t a huge departure from the group’s al­ready unique sound, the album instead finds a perfect midpoint between their last two releases to create a highly expansive yet beautifully intimate rock record that manages to create fully re­alized worlds as you listen, with each track enticing you to ex­plore further and further.

The vast, organic environ­ments conjured by Grizzly Bear on “Shields” are largely due to the overall natural sound pre­sented on the album.

While past releases were heavy on orchestral flour­ishes and studio manipulations, “Shields” presents the group at their rawest and most primi­tive, with each song being cen­tered chiefly on the might of the group’s core elements. These el­ements include the jagged guitar lines, the haunting piano melo­dies, and a rhythm section that is breezy and gentle one minute, yet explosive the next.

While some orchestral instru­ments are still implemented, they’re much more subtle this time around, choosing to bubble up underneath the surface of tracks rather than overwhelm them. This gives the core ele­ments listed above more room to stand out, bringing a much more live feeling that’s both incredibly visceral and relatable.

“Shields” provides listeners with a world of territories and en­vironments to explore, but rather than overwhelming the listener with all of the details at once, Grizzly Bear instead reveals only specific points of view depend­ing on the feeling of each track.

On brighter, livelier tracks like “Speak In Rounds” and the brilliant “Half Gate,” the group provides us with breathtaking, high definition aerial views, dis­playing vast environments like mountain ranges and forests in their entirety.

On the other hand, softer, more brooding tracks like “The Hunt” and “What’s Wrong” bring forth a much more closed-in perspec­tive, like visiting an old aban­doned house and exploring it’s every crevice, taking in every loose floorboard and tangled cobweb to create an incredibly intimate and unnerving experi­ence.

This aspect of “Shields” really shows how strong and diverse the songwriting can be, with some songs soaring high above mountains and canyons and oth­ers zooming in to explore their deepest ravines.

Whether totally bombastic or completely withdrawn, each and every track on “Shields” (minus the transitional track “Adelma”) feels tightly structured and re­fined with growing pop sensi­bilities. Grizzly Bear isn’t nec­essarily new to this, as their last album, “Veckatimest,” contained some of their most accessible songs (including the commercial soundtracking “Two Weeks”).

Though many of the songs on “Shields” are far too dense and labored to have the same imme­diacy, the group still manages to churn out some brilliant moments reflecting their unique definition of what a pop song can be.

This is especially seen on “Yet Again,” the album’s clos­est approximation to a true blue pop song, bringing shimmering chords, hummable chorus, and Droste’s smooth-as-butter vocals right to the forefront. It’s truly a delicate moment of pop tender­ness, that is, until the bottom drops out near the tracks end, spinning the song into a cha­otic vortex of harrowing guitar noise and thunderous drumming. Though Grizzly Bear has clearly proven their worth as fully com­petent songwriters, its surprises like this that keeps them totally unique.

While it may not fully register with all listeners the first time around, rest assured that tak­ing the time to fully explore the twisting, ravenous landscapes found within Grizzly Bear’s lat­est album will most likely make “Shields” one of the most re­warding and unforgettable mu­sic experiences you may come across this year.

“Shields” goes on to prove that Grizzly Bear is making a strong case for being one of the most in­teresting bands around today.

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