It is about time. Finally, an album that I've been anticipating has not let me down. Musically this year has been somewhat disappointing. I have been underwhelmed by some of my favorite artists' releases. The albums haven't necessarily been bad, but perhaps I have too high of expectations. It started out with Of Montreal and moved on to the Walkmen, The Big Pink, Yeasayer, XX etc., etc. I recently began to doubt my musical appreciation. Now that I am a critc of some sort, have I become too critical? I hate critical critics with their critical critiques. I'm not one of those jag-bags, am I?
Today I'm feeling a little better about myself. In fact, I'm feeling a little giddy because I have gotten my hands on Shields, Grizzly Bear's new album and I LIKE IT. This is thee album I have been waiting to hear ever since I learned of it's release date. To say that I love Grizzly Bear is an understatement. Their last album Veckatimest is one of my all time favorite albums. Grizzly Bear is a band that somehow is able to make their songs, filled with dark and heavy instrumentation, feel light and airy. I attribute most of this contradictory effect to the beautiful melodies sung by Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen. Their vocal trade-off is fantabulous because they have this sorta salty/sweet balance.
Everything that was great about Veckatimest finds it's way on Shields, yet, there are subtle and welcomed changes. The first track Sleeping Ute was released about a month ago. The crashing cymbals, the slightly crunched and reverbed guitar and tight arrangements scream classic Grizzly Bear. It's not until the second track, Speak In Rounds. where I feel these subtle changes begin. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the songs just seem a little softer; those crashing cymbals quiet and transitions aren't as sharp; everything flows a bit more smoothly. I don't know if Grizzly Bear intentionally structured the album so that their fans are slowly emerged into their newly-evolved sound, but it worked.
Yet Again is (so far) my favorite track on Shields. The obscure guitar chords are strummed though slowly enough so that you can hear every note, but the chugging drum beat keeps the song moving along at good pace. The listener is treated to a little break between verses when these cocky assholes flaunt their beautifully creative harmonization. The chorus is showered with Droste's crystal clear vocals make me feel like I'm floating in a cathedral. The last minute of the song takes a sharp and unexpectidly psychedlic turn as this droning guitar kicks in and the production is sent into over drive. I absolutely love it; this song is pretty much perfect.
The middle portion of the album takes a small dip in energy. This is not necessarily a bad thing except for on maybe on The Hunt, where the energy bottoms out...and flatlines. I found myself anticipating a build or contrasting element that'd give the track texture, but it never came. If you find yourself in the same rut, just wait it out because A Simple Answer resuscitates the album. From there it's all sunsets and flowers. Literally. The last track Sun In Your Eyes is a 7.00 song that concludes the album with grandiose arrangements, a teaser ending, and those beautiful salty/sweet Grizzly Bear vocals I have come to love.
Shields will be released on on September 18th and the band is currently on tour.