“Keeping up the layered vocals and unusual lyrical arrangements, ‘Shields’ sees them continue to stand shoulders above the competition…”
Grizzly Bear | Shields
After a gap of three years from their highly acclaimed third album Veckatimest, the Brooklyn based quartet bring their large following of fans the highly anticipated Shields. Blending, as they do, both the traditional and the electronic, team GB’s sound has been categorised as a harmonious melting pot of folk, indie and rock and with this, their fourth album, the Brooklyn four-piece are clearly keen to progress their sound even further.
Kicking off with the album’s first single ‘Sleeping Ute’ – in fact a reference to the nickname given to the Ute Mountains in Colorado – creates, through its spidery guitar and smattered drums, an almost dizzying effect. That this nausea is mentioned by the group themselves highlights its hypnotic quality and contrasts with the peace of the song’s subject matter. ‘Speak in Rounds’, following immediately after, progresses in typical freak-folk vein, with the central section bursting open to experiment with some neat vocal harmonies, while its immediate neighbour ‘Adelma’ creates a sinister interlude, at odds with the relatively jolly tone of the opening duo, which use mellowing guitars and echoey, soft drumbeats to lend the record its overarching aural feel.
Elsewhere, ‘Yet Again’ slows the pace sligtly, with lyrics discussing a relationship which has unsolvable problems yet always seems to continue. “Lately it’s about all I can take…We take it all in stride, speak, don’t confide”. ‘The Hunt’ slows things down even further with its unhurried, melancholic guitar chords, limited in their range of notes alongside prominent solo vocals, and adds up to a simple, honest song. It is Shields‘ most tender moment.
Bringing the album into a more upbeat mood with a touch of playful lightheartedness, ‘A Simple Answer’ is an infectiously sunny tune, reminiscent of a mellow American summer road trip and definitely a firm favourite. It shows that when they want, Grizzly Bear can write fantastic pop songs.
Lyrically, the album plays with a relatively straight bad and although the band clearly know their way around a nifty couplet, it is the melodies held within Shields that will really excite. With this record Grizzly Bear have remained comfortably within their broad tag of indie rock, yet have created subtle strength in each song – particularly the choruses – with intricate musical evolution as opposed to all out revolution. This deserves every success that will surely come its way.