Grizzly Bear won universal acclaim with 2009’s “Veckatimest” and, as a result, had a bit of a breakthrough into the mainstream arena with the hit song “Two Weeks.” “Veckatimest” showed off the inimitable sound of the group’s superbly crafted arrangements and vocal harmonies.
The four-piece Brooklyn indie rockers have just released their marvelous fourth studio album, “Shields.” All the magic of Grizzly Bear is present on its latest release, and in a seemingly more accessible way.
“Veckatimest” was a deeply layered record, which was mostly orchestral and slow moving. The album started off with “Southern Point,” the fastest song on the record, followed by “Two Weeks,” the catchy crossover hit. After that, the record moved towards Grizzly Bear’s slower, chamber pop sound.
The new album, “Shields,” starts off in similar fashion with “Sleeping Ute,” an intricately layered track, which is up-tempo with lush, flashy guitar notes. The first single off the album, featuring the vocals of Daniel Rossen, is a beautiful song, showcasing a plethora of instruments and occasional time signature changes.
Frankly, dissecting Grizzly Bear albums feels inherently wrong because of how masterfully crafted they stand as whole works of art.
The musicians comprising Grizzly Bear are masters of their instruments. Ed Droste formed the band after recording an album for his friends, which got circulated around. Drummer Christopher Bear helped that tape become the proper release “Horn of Plenty,” and then guitarist Rossen and multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor joined to fill out the group.
The second song off the album, “Speak in Rounds,” is another up-tempo track, which showcases the elaborate drumming of Bear. Ed Droste is the primary vocalist on this song, as he utters “If I speak in rounds for a while letting my tongue swell / I'll be sure to try and explain myself to dispel.”
“Shields” is a bit different from “Veckatimest” in it never seems to get into the slowest possible gear as the latter often did. The pace feels more upbeat, and the work of the individuals’ other side projects can be felt. Grizzly Bear sounds like a confident group of musicians who know the craftsmanship of which they are capable.
The second single released from “Shields” is “Yet Again.” Droste again finds himself as the main singer. This song is a soft crescendo of strings, piano, and vocal harmony propeling forward through a dreamy atmosphere. Droste intimately sings “Take it all in stride / Speak, don't confide” over soft guitar before the song swells up and crashes again.
This album seems to showcase the individual voices of Droste and Rossen more than “Veckatimest” did. The voices of Droste and Rossen are both terrific, and they both shine on “Shields.” The band also took a more collaborative approach to writing this record than it did on “Veckatimest,” which was mostly written by Droste.
“Shields” is comprised of tremendous and diverse songs throughout. The album's final track, “Sun In Your Eyes,” is a seven-minute composition of piano, strings, drums and guitar, which builds and slows throughout, but never feels forced. Rossen skillfully sings “silver and silent rushing on / endless abundance overflows” as the song slowly builds again.
Everything from “Adelma” to “A Simple Answer” on Grizzly Bear’s new album has its own great qualities and subtleties that make it worthwhile and tremendously entertaining to listen to. “Shields” is another stellar addition to the Grizzly Bear’s catalogue of records. This album deserves a listen and certainly will impress fans and casual listeners alike.
Also out this week:
G.O.O.D. Music — “Cruel Summer”
The highly anticipated compilation album from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label is finally getting released. Music from the album was steadily released over the past summer, with all four singles “Mercy,” “Cold,” “New God Flow,” and “Clique” reaching the Billboard top 100. Kanye West put together an all-star cast for this album, including veterans like Common and Ghostface Killah, and some younger artists like Chief Keef and Kid Cudi.