GRIZZLY BEAR //

Shields (Warp Records)

14/20

Shields is the third album proper from Brooklyn chamber-pop stalwarts Grizzly Bear and it reveals little in the way of departure from the band’s previous records. The standard hallmarks of swirling modern-classical arrangements, faintly histrionic melodic cadences and convoluted song structures are all present and correct. But Shields feels like the group’s most cohesive and fat-free release to date. Brevity has never been Grizzly Bear’s strong point, but the songs here, even when breaking the five-minute mark, feel less unnecessarily sprawling than in the past. And Shields does contain some of the band’s best songs to date. Yet Again is arguably the greatest song they’ve recorded since Yellow House’s On A Neck, On A Spit, marking a slight departure from the group’s usual dedication to subtle leftfield virtuosity in favour of something more directly affecting and melancholy. Similarly, Gun-Shy initially drops some unexpected keyboard drone into the mix, before retreating and settling into an actual groove. It feels a little unfair to criticise Grizzly Bear for producing what is essentially the definitive example of a sound they’ve been slowly perfecting over the last eight years, but unfortunately the accomplishment here is met with an unexpected level of predictability.

 

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Words: Tom Howells

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