Robert Katz, Assistant Web Editor
Shields, Grizzly Bear’s latest art rock release, is a wonder of modern rock. Capturing the dreamy, pastoral mellowness of previous releases, including the breakthrough Veckatimest, and infusing it with a baroque expressiveness, Shields represents a definable evolution of the group and is easily one of the most adventurous records of the year.
Grizzly Bear’s stylistic changes startle the listener less than a second into the first song, “Sleeping Ute,” a lush, roaming piece replete with vocalist Daniel Rossen’s signature vocals, thunderous drum rolls, and one of the rawest guitar parts in recent memory. It’s a brilliant introduction that sets the tone for a band much more interested in power and imagery than ever before, especially as the last two minutes fade into an awe-inducing croon that sounds a little bit more like the Grizzly Bear of old, if not a little more focused.
“Sleeping Ute” parallels the album as a whole, opening up for other head-bobbers, such as the rapidly crescendoing (almost goofily so) “Speak In Rounds” and the showstopping “Yet Again,” a beckoning ode to love and loneliness that’s likely this record’s “Two Weeks” (although vastly more enthralling). The record’s first half is a surprising showcase of the group’s developed confidence, although the sheer force of its efforts can’t stack up to the beauty of Shields’s latter moments.
By “What’s Wrong,” the LP settles down into more familiar territory, drifting into the likes of “gun-shy” and “The Hunt,” both ghostly mirages of Drost and Daniel Rossen’s signature dual vocals and distant instrumentals, and the truly baroque “Sun in Your Eyes.” It’s easy to sense the band’s comfort with these elements, carrying over years of experience in soulful folk-pop since their 2006 breakthrough Yellow House.
A major refinement for Grizzly Bear, Shields evolves upon the group’s status as an indie darling. By channeling its sound into an increasingly complex, powerful form, the band illuminates its future as a pioneer for contemporary rock leading through the decade and, with hope, beyond. Shields is a natural milestone for Grizzly Bear and a milestone for rock as a whole.