Harvest headliners Grizzly Bear are back with their fourth release and Shields is their most adventurous effort yet. Whilst full of big band, baroque sounds, everything you loved about Grizzly Bear is preserved on this, their most powerful, moving record yet.
Debut single, from the album, “Sleeping Ute” brings us back into territory explored on Veckatimest but in a spectacular and innovative manner. Whilst the guitar tonality are reminiscent of tracks like “Two Weeks” and “Cheerleader”, the construction of the track is complex and builds in an almost unexpected manner. The use of sampling creates a rich and real timbre.
As the opening track draws to a close with folk based arpeggios, we are introduced to the familiar thumping bass on “Think in Rounds”. The use of an open tuning on the guitar really accentuates the vibrant tribal feel that the group were going for on this release. The record as a whole fits in nicely with the rest of their discography, which is deeply rooted in just that, rich, roots-based soundscapes.
Layering has always played an integral part of the soothing, mesmerising nature of their music and it continues to be at the forefront of the band’s mind in Shields. From the delicate chinking and brush work in the opening bars of “What’s Wrong” to the big brass, choir and organs on display in “Half Gate”, the band create a complex yet harmonious sound. Their baroque sound is displayed in instrumental piece, “Adelma” which acts as the perfect bridging track between the frantically paced “Speak in Rounds” and the chamber pop that is “Yet Again”. Its ethereal bridge makes it a difficult song to critique, as everything just seems to be so perfect. The track manages to transcend all notions of tension and create an emotional release that left this reviewer lost in its beauty. The rambling nature of the percussion creates a track that is undeniably accented and thoughtful.
A criticism some reviewers had of their previous work comes in the notion that perhaps all they are is beautiful music. Grizzly Bear manage to crush any remnants of that line of critique in this record where their lyrics are so beautifully polite that even orders seem to be posed as questions.
Shields is the sound of a band which is more sure of itself than ever before. Whilst on previous records, the band were trying to find their feet, there is no doubt now what Grizzly Bear can be known for. They are the result of four very different musicians slowly and carefully pouring their heart, body and soul into a mould that allows each style to flourish and blossom in a justified manner. Grizzly Bear is a democracy. That is something that will never change. In folk based “The Hunt” the group describe a land in which “you are you and I’ll stay me”. That’s what their song writing process is, and indeed, their records sound like. A land in which a beautiful coexistence can occur.