Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Oct. 26, 2012
Grizzly BearShields (Warp)
Grizzly Bear's fourth LP was originally recorded in Marfa, but those sessions were scrapped with the exception of opening missive "Sleeping Ute." Nevertheless, the song sets up Shields with a sweeping sensibility grounded in the subtlety of its details, an epic quality that emerges like a reflection of West Texas' grandiosity accentuated by the necessity of precise minutiae. Thundering drums from Chris Bear and sonic turmoil brewed in multi-instrumentalist/bassist Chris Taylor's effects ring against swirling guitar riffs, all coursing through Daniel Rossen's calming croon, and finally settling plaintively like a post-storm wash. Shields battens down an exposition of everything and nothing all at once. The LP carries none of the immediate appeal of a song like "Two Weeks" from 2009's Veckatimest, nor are the signature harmonies between Rossen and keyboardist Ed Droste as prominent as previously. Instead, the album conducts as an evocative, and often inwardly-turned exploration. "Move on, let's face that all you trust is a cynical phrase/No time, no place, when all you hope is that everything breaks," offers "A Simple Answer." The entire album fights against impulse, restrained yet restless. "Speak in Rounds" pitches into a fast-strummed anxiety of loneliness, while "Yet Again" booms behind Drost's soft, deceptive pleas. "The Hunt" never finds its mark, but still serves as the centerpiece that turns the album's backside into the chiding "A Simple Answer" and haunting, drowsy hallucination of "What's Wrong." More than anything, Shields feels like a deliberate maturation of Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, trading adolescent angst for an older disillusion and heartbreak. The same tension exists between the two, especially in swelling closers "Half Gate" and "Sun in Your Eyes," yet here, they're more intricately expressed and controlled.