mon 02/10/2023

CD: Grizzly Bear – Shields | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Grizzly Bear – Shields

CD: Grizzly Bear – Shields

A new beginning for the Brooklyn outfit on their most confident album yet

Grizzly Bear's 'Shields': So confident it could be a debut

Shields leaves standing everything Grizzly Bear have done previously. Four albums in, the Brooklyn quartet move forward with their most focused, most cohesive album yet. The folk influence remains, as do traces of their love of The Beach Boys, but Shields is – mostly – so confident it could be a debut album. It’s also the first time all the songwriting has been credited to the entire band.

It opens with “Sleeping Ute”, a swirling psychedelic vortex evoking longing and endings: “those countless empty days made me dizzy when I woke… I know no other way than straight on out the door”. It’s a deeply striking calling card for Grizzly Bear in 2012. Beginning an album with a song that appears to be about bringing a relationship to a close is intriguing: is the relationship in question the one with the Grizzly Bear of 2009, the year their last album, Veckatimest, brought them into the mainstream?

This terrific, dynamic album then moves into the sparkling “Speak in Rounds”, followed by the gauzy instrumental “Adelma”. The closing track, “Sun in Your Eyes”, is key. The drama of this soaring piece brings to mind the wonder of A Wizard, A True Star-era Todd Rundgren, when he took his music beyond any expectations of musical constraints. Shields isn’t seamless, however. Grizzly Bear’s penchant for favouring the vocal arrangement over the actual song manifests itself on “Half Gate”, which is too close to Fleet Foxes for comfort. Key touchstones Neil Young and The Beach Boys are still apparent, and it’s possible they’ve cocked an ear to Sweden's Dungen. None of that matters on an album this assured.

Watch Grizzly Bear perform Shields' "Sleeping Ute"

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