Review | Grizzly Bear – Shields
by Courtney Leigh Allen, is originally from Seattle but now writes, lives and paints in the great city of Boston, Massachusetts.
Back in 2009, the Brooklyn foursome Grizzly Bear released their third studio album Veckatimest, placing on and topping many year-end Best of 2009 lists. Though it was their third effort, it was the album that garnered them wide acclaim and solidified their spot as one of indie rock’s elite.
But it’s been almost 4 years since and now the guys, Ed, Dan, Chris and Chris are back with Shields. For the past few months, I’ve had Sleeping Ute and Yet Again on repeat. But just as I had to do with last week’s Coexist by the XX (another band following up a 2009 release this September) I found myself being unable to really formulate coherent thoughts about Shields without going back to their previous release.
Full of swelling harmonies, Veckatimest was a solid chamber pop album, with classic harmonic elements. I’m thinking of the crescendo on Two Weeks and the growing instrumentation on I Live With You. Veckatimest managed to be beautiful, haunting and creepy at the same time (remember the music video for Two Weeks?), but never went anywhere above middle tempo.
So when the first track you hear off of Shields is Sleeping Ute, which opens with the clashing of drums and striking guitar before Dan’s vocals even kick in, the sound, tempo and attitude is completely different. For what was creepy, beautiful and haunting before is now gorgeous, assured and melancholic. And let’s be honest, I’d take melancholic over creepy, any day.
Shields is definitely less dramatic than their previous works, a sound that definitely suits them better. Treading the line between rock and baroque pop, this record has crossed to the rock side of the road, with tracks more focused with guitars, drums and vocals, rather than slowly swelling vocal harmonies. It’s definitely a more approachable sound, and as Stephen Colbert said in his interview with the band for StePhest Colbchella ’012, “You are it on a stick in indie bands right now.” It’s pretty clear that these guys can do no wrong.