Shields

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Grizzly Bear rode a wave of indie intrigue on the back of 2009‘s Veckatimest, one of the more disguised duds of recent years. Their follow-up, Shields, makes a stronger claim to their atmospheric potency. The band’s patient, wading sub-rock is consistently engaging throughout, standing tall at the start with “Sleeping Ute", a harmonious blend of sunny guitars and smeary studio gauze. The songs soar on the lilting tenors of singers Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, and pulse through the deft rhythm section of Christopher Bear and Chris Taylor. The wonderfully up-tempo strum-fest “Speak In Rounds” and “Yet Again”, with its lunging riff, steady pace, and monstrous instrumental outro, are tracks to enjoy again and again. The record pales slightly in the middle, during the meandering “A Simple Answer”, which still manages to reach a lyrical peak: “No wrong, no right / Just do whatever you like / No bliss, no light / Tell me it’s all just a lie”. There’s a minor vibe of uneasiness in the words of Shields, a feeling of unleashing one’s self, a gritty recklessness. The fact that they’re delivered so prettily can add to the malaise. “The sky keeps staring at me / Frozen in my tracks” is how the fantastic “Gun-Shy” opens, and later on: “I left my mind long ago / Choosing something false”. The band’s secret weapon is Taylor, who provides nimble bass work and moonlights as a curtain-wrapped inventory of spectral sounds, such as the bleep bloops that undercut “Sleeping Ute”, or the mounting wave of sound that’s name-checked in “What’s Wrong”. Everything comes together on the closer “Sun In Your Eyes”, a true baroque epic that reflects the album’s vibrance. With Shields, Grizzly Bear have spread their textures into accessibly layered shapes.

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