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Album Review

by Grizzly Bear


Review Date
27th September 2012
Reviewed by
Martyn Pepperell

Shields, the fourth album from New York art rock quartet Grizzly Bear might just be their most accomplished suite of work. Far removed from the rustic lo-fi structures of their debut album Horn Of Plenty, it might not have that "underground band on the verge of crossing over" magic of hipster favourite Yellow House, or the massive hit power that smash single 'Two Weeks' gave Veckatimest, but Shields is sublimely cohesive and consistent as a long player.

Far from an overnight success, Grizzly Bear, much like fellow post-millennium New York acts Dirty Projectors, TV On The Radio and Gang Gang Dance, have played the long game, releasing record after record, playing show after show, slowly but surely building themselves into a credible global force and as a by-product of this, cultural signifier. Folding the lessons learned over this journey together, with Shields they extend their guitar and voice centralised sound beyond the American Gothic of Yellow House and the ornate psychedelic chamber music of Veckatimest, arriving in their heaviest location to date. Pushing Christopher Bears' drumming into the foreground of the mix, explosive bursts of rhythm-turned-texture wash over the top of a dreamy melodic soundworld helmed by Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen's lead vocal, guitar work and keyboard lines. With Chris Taylor keeping his bass lines propulsive yet understated, under his artful producer ear, the ten songs on Shields wash in and out of each other, rising and falling like waves crashing against the rocks on the seashore.

As I mentioned before Shields doesn't have an obvious 'Two Weeks' style anthem that jumps out on you at first listen. Initially this might seem like a weakness. However, given a healthy dose of repeated plays, a different way of hearing emerges. Shields isn't actually a record missing a big single. It is in fact a record full of big songs, be it 'Speak In Rounds', 'Yet Again', 'Half Gate' or 'Sun In Your Ears'. And as opposed to eclipsing each other with their blinding light, the ten songs on Shields hang together superbly, creating a very tangible, properly engaging widescreen listening experience. And experience is key here, because as with their past works, the songs captured on Shields are the sort of music you virtually bathe in.

As by-product of this, while the lyrical content of their new songs should probably be addressed somewhere, it won't be happening in this review. With voices that strong, and such fitting musical accompaniment and support, from my end at least, analysing what the music is about in terms of lyrical themes and content seems almost redundant. And besides, I'm sure you'll be able to read some massive thesis level analysis of the writing on some other website somewhere online very soon.

Tangentially, but not too tangentially, having had the luxury of listening to Grizzly Bear play live twice in 2010 during their Veckatimest era, when I multiply those euphoric experiences by the sonic beauty of Shields, the 20th and 21st of November feel very exciting indeed.


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