It was always going to be a difficult ask. Grizzly Bear’s third album, ‘Veckatimest’ stole the hearts of music lovers in an insidious, slow moving fashion. Pushed forward by lengthy touring, the record became something of a breakthrough moment for the Brooklyn four-piece. Sat alone in a recording studio last summer, they must have wondered: what now?
Thankfully those doubts have fuelled what must rank as the band’s most pointed release yet. ‘Shields’ finds Grizzly Bear brimming with purpose, both experimenting with and refining their inimitable brand of songwriting. Opening cut ‘Sleeping Ute’ is already surfing across the blogosphere, with its near math-rock levels of intricacy backed by effortlessly soothing harmonies. Whereas in the past Grizzly Bear could be withdrawn, almost protective, the band now seem open, confident. Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen swap vocals, occasionally veering in over one another to reach yet another emotional peak. ‘Speak In Rounds’ shifts between gentle and jarring, while ‘What’s Wrong’ is unusually direct.
Taking time off to focus on other projects – Rossen works in Department Of Eagles, Chris Taylor formed CANT – only seems to have benefited the group. ‘Shields’ feels like the work of Grizzly Bear as a band, as a cohesive, united entity. ‘Sun In Your Eyes’ stretches out past the seven-minute mark, yet never feels tired, fatigued – instead, it’s all coy manner and unforced inventiveness. ‘Shields’ is an engrossing, beautiful work which could only come from Grizzly Bear, and only at this point in their career. Stunning.
Words by ROBIN MURRAY