Fire Note Says: While it feels like the framework of greatness is there, Grizzly Bear’s new album, Shields, doesn’t quite match their last top performer Veckatimest.
Album Review: Grizzly Bear’s last record, Veckatimest , topped the chart and was number one in our 2009 Blazing Top 50 year end countdown. The musical craftsmanship, harmonies, and hype for the record were all there and it was warranted. Daniel Rossen & Co. crafted an album were vocals soared, guitars fluttered, pianos pounded, and drums thundered. The album was a dream wonderland of exhilaration; you could close your eyes and float away with ease. Here Grizzly Bear returns with the follow up, Shields, a more expansive album that soars in sections but at certain points may be too sparse for its own good.
The first track, “Sleeping Ute“, seems to be heading in the right direction for the same Veckatimest grandiosity with a clever chord bounce that leads into a swirling fury or instrumentation that evokes some of the grandest dream pop. The song then ends with what may be conceived as a whimper that left me wanting a bit more. In my mind I wanted the track to continue the buildup that I know Grizzly Bear is capable of. The next track, “Speak in Rounds”, makes a call back to the frenzy, flutter strum of Veckatimest opener “Southern Point” which is quite a high complement. It keeps the energy lofted and is a fine track, although it still feels like something is missing and maybe could have used a bit more exploration. The fourth track, “Yet Again”, heavily says Radiohead to the listening brain and while that seems like high praise it still has a slight been there done that feel to it. If you take a listen to Radiohead’s “Knives Out” or most of anything off of Amnesiac , I believe you will hear what I am talking about.
I know my review heavily favors the first half of the album but it was hard to pick up on the overall mood that Grizzly Bear was trying to create. The album definitely has a grand idea with an expansive canvas but for me it just didn’t have enough paint to finish the project. Shields surprises are fast and loose and Grizzly Bear clearly wanted the listener reminded that this is a full marathon not just a quick mile run. Shields by any means is not a bad album, but it just doesn’t seem like the follow up to Veckatimest that I was waiting for. Maybe it caught me at the wrong moment as I didn’t want a challenge but wanted an experience! I am not sure how Shields will play out after several more listens but I will admit that it is a true grower and who knows, Grizzly Bear could still strike my inner chord, as hoped, down the road but for right now I am holding my reviewer ground on this outing.
Key Tracks: “Sleeping Ute”, “gun-shy”, “Yet Again”
Artists With Similar Fire: Radiohead / TV On The Radio / The National
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-Reviewed by Christopher Tahy