Album Review: Grizzly Bear – Shields (Warp Records; 2012)

By Emma Cox

Hailing from Brooklyn New York, Grizzly Bear are no longer a mere cult favourite among their local fan base. They are now a favourite among more mainstream audiences, receiving consistent critical acclaim – the band have even been dubbed America’s answer to Radiohead. The four indie darling’s latest instalment, Shields, sees them build upon the complex brand of Avant folk- rock of their previous album Veckatimest. Shields is arguably a less polished effort, yet this has allowed Grizzly Bear to produce some of their most visceral and direct music to date.

The first single, “Sleeping Ute”, for example, opens with a chaotic burst of jagged guitar, proggy synth and thrashing percussion.  The track is a surprising deviation from the more symphonic, graceful qualities of previous releases. Ever-present though, is

the reedy tenor of guitarist Daniel Rosen, his blues-tinged melody floating above the unhinged instrumental background.

Unlike the previous album, Shields does not have any conventional ‘single’ tracks, however “Yet again”, is arguably the most obvious ‘single’ in the collection due to its catchy, yet sedate, melody: it escalates into a dramatic crescendo of static guitar and eerie synth. Band founder Ed Droste provides the vocals for “Yet again” which are strong and full bodied when compared to Rosen’s vocal work on the album.

Unfortunately, other tracks on the album are less accessible, with songs such as “The hunt” blending into the background and lacking any real zeal or intensity. Likewise the song “Aldema” is a minute long instrumental track, which also adds little to the overall effect of the album and could be viewed as mere filler.

Shields is not instantly accessible, but is a complex album which will reveal more and more with every listen. It is a landmark in the bands career, due to its singularity of vision and instrumental complexity.  Grizzly Bear know precisely what they’re doing.