Grizzly Bear – Shields
Being that Grizzly Bear has created already fantastic albums (Yellow House and Veckatimest), there’s a lot to be desired for another great album. All bands cannot churn great album after album, and that’s what separates the good from the great. Shields is a highly anticipated album that many can and will adore. From ‘Sleeping Ute’, the band’s first announced song for this release, to ‘Sun in Your Eyes’, a seven-minute piano driven ballad, the album carries a lighter and gracious tone, compared to previous albums.
However, the band disappoints slightly. It doesn’t overwhelm like Veckatimest. It’s not as psychedelically delicious as Yellow House. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad album – not even close. Shields just isn’t the shining moment in Grizzly Bear’s existence.
As I mentioned, the album is much more reserved and this adds a new dynamic. ‘Sleeping Ute’ might be the only exception, with the clashing cymbals and ferociously incendiary guitar. The lyrics are top-notch, and Daniel Rossen kills it with his ranging vocals. ‘But I can’t help myself’ is the song’s refrain, and you can’t help but feel the way he says it. The track also features a lot of interesting percussion bits, noted in the bits after lyrics from the verses. When the track flips around the three-minute mark, it’s like the album takes it’s full flight. Like the first three minutes were just a sample, and now you’re in for the real ride. The track just cools down and fits the rest of the album very well.
“Speak in Rounds” features a very familiar guitar bit from ‘Southern Point’ around the two-minute mark, almost speaking out to its predecessor. ‘Adelma’ is a minute-long noise bit, and ‘Yet Again’ is an top-notch track. The guitar riff that is evident throughout the track is serene and beautiful, just about what you’d ask for in a Grizzly Bear song. ‘The Hunt’ is a essential track to hear, especially for the proof that this album is much more relaxed… and atmospheric. Most of the tracks featured on this album are so lofty and spacious, and these characteristics fit very well into their forte. (To be completely honest, this track reminds me of “A Good Place” from Horn of Plenty,which had a very atmospheric quality.)
All in all, the rest of the album has its moments, but still misses the mark. ‘Gun-shy’ is interesting with its groovy backbone and floaty vocals, ‘What’s Wrong’ has got a jazzy feel – with its upright bass and clangy percussion bits, ‘A Simple Moment’ and ‘Half Gate’ seems like they could take off at any moment and never do. Even when ‘Half Gate’ gets dramatic and sounds like a horror movie theme, it just putters out and goes back to the first bit.
But, ‘Sun in Your Eyes’ is a closer of closers, the ending that should’ve been the whole album. The vocals and percussion reach all new heights and capstone the album. The song features a very well done brass section throughout. The piano melody is a perfect melody with the mood reflected. It’s like the song was envisioned and reflected in the idea perfectly. Finishing the album with this song was the right thing to do, because this song is as beautiful as the second half of Veckatimest, and perfectly does what the beginning of the album does. “Sun in Your Eyes” echoes the past while entertaining the future. Check out the ending of the song, when the piano chords are just stretched out and played, and then it picks up for the second part. The guitar and vocals are to die for.
Shields isn’t a massive failure – it isn’t amazing, but enjoyable. It has its moments, but you look back, knowing they could’ve done so much more. I guess they can’t all be zingers.